Richard Branson claims to own all uses of "virgin"

Catherine sez, "Bazillionaire Richard Branson of Virgin Enterprises is suing little guy Jason Yang, proprietor of Virgin Threads for trademark infringement. Yang, whose sole source of income is the site, and who supports a young family, is fighting the lawsuit, arguing that no one should be able to trademark a common word. Classic David and Goliath story."

Virgin Enterprises filed a federal lawsuit against and several others using virgin* domain names, accusing them of trademark infringement, dilution, and cyberpiracy. All for using a word that's been in the English language for far longer than mogul Branson has been using it as a trademark for his businesses. As David Bollier asks in a CNN Money story on the subject, "If anyone can lay claim to that word, shouldn't it be the Catholic church?"

Traditional trademark law, concerned with consumer confusion, finds infringement when one use of a mark tends to deceive consumers about the source of goods or services they're buying. Dilution goes beyond that to allow the holder of a "famous" mark to bar use that "causes dilution of the distinctive quality of the mark," even outside the trademark holder's realm of goods. Dilution is a big gun, and one rightly limited to distinctive coined terms and actual harm, as the Supreme Court ruled when it held that "Victor's Little Secret" did not dilute "Victoria's Secret."


(Thanks, Catherine!)