Trademarking Makerspace (Again)

A British company has filed a trademark application for the word ‘MakerSpace’. While we’ve seen companies attempt to latch on to popular Maker phrases before, Gratnells Limited, the company in question, is a manufacturer of plastic containers, carts, and other various storage solutions. These products apparently provide a space to store all the stuff you make. Something along those lines.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone try to glom onto the immense amount of marketing Make: has put into the term ‘makerspace’. In 2015,ย UnternehmerTUM MakerSpaceGmbH, an obviously German tech accelerator based in Munich, filed an application to trademark the word ‘Makerspace’. A few days later, we got word this makerspace wasn’t trying to enforce anything, they were just trying to keep the rug from being pulled out from under them. It was a defensive trademark, if something like that could ever exist (and it can’t under US trademark law). Swift and efficient German bureaucracyย prevailed, and the trademark was rejected.

The trademark in question here covers goods including, ‘metal hardware and building materials’, ‘trolleys, trolleys with trays’, ‘guide rails of non-metallic materials’, and ‘lids for containers’, among other storage-related items. While this is far outside the usual meaning for a ‘makerspace’ – a building or club with a whole bunch of tools – if this trademark is approved, there is always the possibility of overzealous solicitors.

Fortunately, Gratnells released a statement today saying they would not defend or continue this trademark. This is in light of the recent, limited reaction to the trademark application. The word Makerspace is safe again another day.

Thanks [Tom] for the tip.

37 thoughts on “Trademarking Makerspace (Again)

  1. WHy not be more clever instead of stealing others’ name/ MakerWare, MakerBins, MakerGear just to name a few would be excellent names for this company based on the product and aim of their product, and would not entangle them into this mess. Oh wait, they are doing it intentionally for publicity and attention.. Argh.

  2. Trademarks are registered in categories, anyone is free to register a trademark in a different category. You can for example have Apple for Computers, Apple for printing services and Apple for plastics. Each of these ‘Apple’ trademarks are registered in different NICE categories. A storage cart called ‘makerspace’ is nothing to do with a venue called ‘makerspace’.

    1. Unfortunately, this is not true. This has been proven by Sky, the tv company. Microsoft named their cloud storage solution SkyDrive, and was forced to change the name to OneDrive. Note that Microsoft has some of the deepest pockets around. The maker of the game No Man’s Sky was also taken to court and after years of litigation, was finally allowed to release his game under a name that has absolutely nothing to do with Sky the tv company. Anyone doing anything with the word Sky has to prepare for a long, extended battle in court. It very much appears that one can claim a name for himself, whatever the category.

      1. Sky provides digital services including broadband this is close enough to a cloud storage service to cause confusion. An existing trademark owner in this case Sky TV can oppose new registrations if they can provide evidence of possible confusion by the consumer.

    2. This. One shouldn’t comment about trademarks if one doesn’t get this basic fact, just as one shouldn’t comment if one can’t differentiate between trademarks, copyright and patents.

  3. Now imagine the opposite: this company can’t produce plastic boxes and call them boxes because there’s a cloud service with an identical name and very similar functionality (storing stuff, no matter if it’s physical or virtual).
    Companies are trying to trademark generic words to prevent people from using them. It’s worse than using the founder’s name like most clothing brands did (“You must get a nickname because your real name is trademarked, Mr. Abercrombie”).

    1. A cloud service with the name boxes would register their trademark in nice class 35, 37, 38 & 42. Their registration would not prevent the use of the word boxes in Class 20 where a box manufacturer would need to register the trademark. However it is irrelevant anyway as words that are descriptive can not be registered as they are impossible to enforce. A trademark must be enforced in order to remain valid.

      I don’t expect hobbyists to know anything about trademark law but before making such factually inaccurate statements it might pay to just take a glancing look at how trademarks work.

          1. Darren
            Had a recent complaint with Amazon.
            There is a company called Hirt’s Gardens. They sell seeds and plants. I had purchased from them through Amazon before.
            This year I ordered some Corn seed from Hirt’s SEED AND GARDEN through Amazon.
            The seed arrived but covered in Bird killer.
            I called Hirt’s Garden about the seed. It was not from them.
            Seems some Chinese genius marketers attempted to capitalize on the trademark.
            Both the original Hirts and myself called Amazon to complain.
            If I run a search now only Hirt’s Garden appears on Amazon.
            But Amazon still sells BOROSCOPES as ENDOSCOPES.

        1. He knows more than you at least: “The specific items of goods and/ or services must be listed”, being vague means not having trademark protection.

          Are you perhaps thinking about patents?

  4. If I have this correctly I can create a cart with odd sized drawers and trademark it as WANK. I can then add wheels and trademark it as WANKER.
    Then I can sue everyone using my trademarked names and receive a cut for usage.
    I’ll be as rich as Bob Dildo or Ron Strapon!

    1. You can sue everyone that is using your trademarks to market similar carts, yes. Don’t think it’ll make you rich though, Bob Dildo made his fortune on the stock market and Ron his selling spam.

      1. Megol
        Are you certain Ron sold “SPAM”?
        He would have needed to sell a lot of ” SPAM” to become that rich.
        I suppose he would be required to pay me some royalties after my trademarking.

    1. There is a difference between a trade mark and a registered trade mark, in the UK at least. A trade mark is just that, it is what you put on the cardboard boxes and feature in your advertising, and will probably increase your brand recognition. A registered trade mark comes with a whole lot of very clear and practical law and jurisprudence which puts you in a better position to chase off people trying to benefit from your brand recognition etc. You can’t complete the registration process without conforming to the rules which, in principle, aim for fairness and practicality. Of course everyone tries to game the system.

  5. A side, only tangentially related note:

    Every time I seem something that calls itself a “makerspace”, I cringe. They’ve taken the “hack” out of “hackerspace” in an attempt to make someplace that is safe to take their kids to, stripping out the “disregard for authority” aspects that make it valuable, interesting and exciting.

    In a world where farmer’s can’t repair their own tractors without breaking the DMCA, and your ISP is now permitted to sell your browsing history to anybody at all, the value of “hack” to every individual has never been higher. The attitude of “if I can’t open it, I don’t own it” is more important than it has ever been. “Hack” implies the playful disregard for locks and laws, the desire to do it the hard way for the lulz, the excitement of doing something beyond what is allowed. This is the essential energy of the hackerspace, and the hackerspace movement, and it should not be hidden or denied.

    Especially for your kids.

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