BitTorrent Sues BitTorrent
May 23, 2012 11:19 AM
(Source: Download Torrent)
U.S. protocol developer accuses German copycat of abusing its trademarks and good-will
slow death of peer-to-peer filesharing
, the BitTorrent protocol has become
virtually synonymous with filesharing
in general. Even the
offices of members of Congress
use Bittorrent for illegal filesharing.
facing users who torrent copyrighted content, it may surprise some to know that an independent company not only
develops and profits off of
the popular protocol, but also sells a torrent-friendly set-top box, as well as a slew of torrent-themed software, including antivirus apps, media players, and file converters.
BitTorrent Inc., based out of San Francisco, Calif. claims its "branded products and services are used by hundreds of millions of people in the United States and internationally to find, share, and move digital media."
But lately BitTorrent Inc. has been plagued by a pesky foe -- Germany's BitTorrent Marketing GmbH. BitTorrent Marketing is in no way developed with the association of the protocol, but it owns
and a series of misspelled versions of the base
domain, the primary site of BitTorrent Inc.
BitTorrent Marketing's for-profit obfuscation has drawn the ire of BitTorrent Inc. who this month decided enough was enough and filed the
Northern District of California
-- a San Francisco federal court.
BitTorrent (U.S.) accuses BitTorrent (Germany) of trademark infringement, illegal domain name purchases, and cyber-squatting (the act of hording domain names that are not being actively developed).
The U.S. protocol developer writes in
Defendant is capitalizing on misdirected users who are seeking to avail themselves of BitTorrent’s products and services and are instead led to defendant’s BitTorrent website (through defendant’s use of the infringing domain names.) Users are then presented with offers to access and download digital media and content that they would typically find through plaintiff’s BitTorrent client and protocol, and likely sign up and pay for the services available through defendant’s BitTorrent website under the misimpression that such services are offered by, sponsored by, or affiliated with plaintiff.
[The defendant has] an intent to confuse consumers and profit from the goodwill and consumer recognition associated with plaintiff and its BitTorrent trademark.
BitTorrent (U.S.) wants BitTorrent (Germany) to stop using its trademark. It may face a bitter battle on this front as BitTorrent (Germany) has registered the name with the European Community (the EU's intellectual property body) and with German regulatory agencies.
The U.S. firm is also seeking millions in monetary damages, which it says its German foe illegally obtained in ad-revenue, based on its trickery. BitTorrent Inc. is also demanding that the German firm forfeit its copycat domain names.
Despite the popularity of third party/alternative torrent clients, such as
(although the latter is now owned by BitTorrent), reportedly 150 million people worldwide are now putting to use
-- some legally, but many illegally. BitTorrent Inc. was founded by
, a computer programmer who developed the protocol in 2001. Up until 2005 BitTorrent's search engine (accessible from its homepage) allowed users to search for upload torrents of copyrighted materials. However, facing mounting legal pressure BitTorrent agreed that year to remove copyrighted materials from its results.
That change helped BitTorrent avoid future lawsuits, while developing a protocol that is tremendously popular with pirates. The change is also the primary reason why most of today's torrent search traffic is routed through uncensored third party
The Pirate Bay
, which are perfectly happy to point users to torrents of pirated copyrighted works.
Some would be surprised to know that BitTorrent Inc. actually enjoys
a rather friendly relationship with big media groups
like Time Warner Inc.'s (
) Warner Brothers and News Corp.'s (
) Fox to legally distribute their content.
BitTorrent Inc. [via Wired; PDF]
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