Trademarking Makerspace

UnternehmerTUMMakerSpaceGmbH, a tech accelerator in Munich, Germany, has just filed an application to trademark the word Makerspace. This has caused some contention in the German-speaking hackosphere, and if this trademark application is approved, the few spaces in Germany that identify as a makerspace may soon be changing the sign out front.

It must be noted this trademark application only covers the word ‘Makerspace’, and not “Hackerspace”. To most of the population, the word ‘hacker’ – in English and German – conjures up images of someone wearing a balaclava and using a laptop to steal bank accounts. To the uninitiated public, a hackerspace is distinct from a makerspace. In reality, they are remarkably similar: a hackerspace has a room filled with tools; a makerspace has a room filled with tools that allow people to control their language. Little difference, really, if you discount the [Frank Luntz]-level wordsmithing.

While this could go badly for any ~space in Germany with a ‘maker’ prefix, trademarking ‘makerspace’ isn’t really that much different from calling it a TechShop, and the trademark application is probably just a product of lawyers. In any event, it looks like  UnternehmerTUM MakerSpace GmbH has a pretty cool space; 1500m² (16000sq ft) of space, a water jet, and even some sewing equipment. We’d be happy to take a tour, so long as they don’t enforce the trademark.

Thanks [Moritz] for the tip.

89 thoughts on “Trademarking Makerspace

    1. If that burglar was in fact a “creative” manufacturing low quality images for bloggers via shutterstock then fingerless gloves would probably fall under the category of “dumb hipster clothing” they would have lying around on the floor next to their overflowing dirty laundry basket.

  1. CEO is one Susanne Klatten, heir of BMW and according to Wikipedia: “the richest woman in Germany and the 49th richest person in the world.” — not your average under-funded hackerspace here. Still the term “makerspace” was used before and by others.

    1. According to the records in the German publlic register of companies (Handelsregister), this is incorrect. Susanne Klatten is not the CEO of UnternehmerTUM MakerSpace GmbH. (This does not rule out that she might be a partner in the company, but I’d seriously doubt that.). It does however not seem unlikely, that BMW is involved in the funding or as a sponsor..

      1. That’s how US trademark laws work, but do German trademark laws work the same way? The link you gave is for the international trademark system, which is just about as useless as the international patent system.

    1. If it works like the US Patent system, there is gonna be tons of prior art. Honestly, if the woman behind BMW is funding a huge as f*** building for you German makers to build stuff in, for God’s sake maybe it’s a good thing. I don’t see any major American billionaire giving us a building like that. We squander our riches. If they did, every finished product would require a logo stamped somewhere and a waiver that if you invent something using their equipment, you give up rights to it.

        1. Don’t bother. Teaching humans not to eat from the hand is like teaching deer not to eat corn out of orange Home Depot buckets.

          The “too good to be true” free-lunch always seems like a good idea until the hunter pulls the trigger from their “desperate inventor stand” and a .30-06 spitzer boat tail delivers an education in the dangers of strangers bearing gifts.

          In this case: ballistic cavities are a metaphor for that feeling like a used condom after you see someone turn your ideas in to a millions of dollars in revenue with not so much as a reach-around.

          The MBA types have realized that giving $0 in back-pay is safer than acknowledging the debt’s legitimacy by paying the slave labor minimum wage for their sweat and blood. Willingness to absorb the risk is less painful when the upside potential is the same as the downside potential.

  2. Honestly given that Maker Media (Maker Faire) own the US trademark for Maker Space and there are companies already out there using that name, and it’s used generically to refer to spaces it’s hard to get a trademark on that, what makes it difficult is finding a way to talk to the german trade mark office to actually make an objection.

    1. “Honestly given that Maker Media (Maker Faire) own the US trademark for Maker Space”

      This is outright false. Why would you claim this?

      Go to and look it up. It’s not claimed. The only one I could find is a record from an individual (not Make, far as I can tell) for “Makers Space” (Makers, with an S, and two words). Makerspace, Maker Space, etc is unclaimed.

      I spoke with Dale Doughtery (founder/executive chairman of Make, guy who coined the term “maker”) earlier this week, with concerns about Make Media claiming to pursue ownership over “Makerspace”, and he said he has no intention of claiming use over any physical space, only “online” use of it to protect He’s put effort into preventing any company from taking that adjective away from the community at large. The original TOS were a bit more aggressive than that and they’re rewriting them. It’s unclear (to me) just what “online” consists of, but, regardless, no trademark has been granted.

      Further, when Brian said: “We’d be happy to take a tour, so long as they don’t enforce the trademark.” Which is a ridiculous statement because it would be a self-defeating act. I’m not an expert in German law, but, everywhere else I’ve looked, if you do not enforce a trademark you lose it. You are obligated to send cease-and-desists, etc. The reason being that it prevents companies from letting their brand become widely adopted as an adjective or noun, then turn around and pull the rug out from under everyone. You either enforce it steadily or you lose the trademark. This is why sometimes nice companies act a bit protective over a trademark being used by some non-profit or some group just for fun and whatnot… it’s serious business, not telling them they’re forbidden from using it means you’ve forfeited your claim to the mark.

      Which means if you don’t intend to enforce your trademark, you’d never bother applying for one in the first place because the minute you didn’t, you’d invalidate it.

      1. Did you read what you just wrote? You said:

        “Make Media claiming to pursue ownership over “Makerspace”, and he said he has no intention of claiming use over any physical space,”

        So, if a space in the US uses “makerspace”, they won’t be pursued by Make Media. Okay. Then you say:

        “Further, when Brian said: “We’d be happy to take a tour, so long as they don’t enforce the trademark.” Which is a ridiculous statement because it would be a self-defeating act. I’m not an expert in German law, but, everywhere else I’ve looked, if you do not enforce a trademark you lose it”

        You’re correct that trademark is ‘use it or lose it’ in US law. So it’s okay for Make media to not enforce their trademark, thus invalidating it, but trademarking ‘makerspace’ and not enforcing it is stupid. That’s literally what you said, two paragraphs apart.

        Also, you claim the word Makerspace and Maker Space is unclaimed. How about you look at the ToS for

        >6. Restrictions on Trademark Usage
        >6.1 The names and associated logos for MakerSpace, Maker Faire, Maker Shed, Make:, MakerCamp, MakerCon, and the Makey robot images are trademarks owned by Maker Media.

        MakerSpace might not be in the TESS database, but it’s right there in the ToS that Make Media intends to trademark the word ‘MakerSpace’.

        So which is it?

        1. “So it’s okay for Make media to not enforce their trademark, thus invalidating it, but trademarking ‘makerspace’ and not enforcing it is stupid.”

          Perhaps I was unclear. I will elaborate.

          FIRST – I am not claiming that what Make Media does makes sense, just commenting on what they’ve said.

          SECOND – Trademarks are applicable to a specific setting. For example, the “Apple” trademark for Apple Computers does not prevent someone from having, say “Apple Machining” or “Apple Driving School.” So what Make is saying, (I think) is that they are limiting the scope of their claim to the online domain, not over any physical space using it. More on that below.

          “>6. Restrictions on Trademark Usage”
          “MakerSpace might not be in the TESS database, but it’s right there in the ToS that Make Media intends to trademark the word ‘MakerSpace’. So which is it?”

          I don’t think you read very carefully. Let me rephrase anyway.

          When I communicated with Mr. Dougherty on Friday, he said they are currently rewriting the terms of service to more accurately match their intentions. The lawyers got a bit overzealous. I’ve read a new draft of their TOS that expounds on what is not being claimed, and the limits of it’s scope. I’m not going to post it because it was sent in confidence and is still in the process of being reviewed.

          Also, for what it’s worth… the last thing I said was that I am not clear what he means by “Physical” vs “Online” and that from the new TOS I still could not describe to anyone what would or would not be allowed.

          I’m not speaking on their behalf, just relating what I’ve been told.

          1. Perhaps this will help. This is a quote from Dale to another space that contacted him with concerns (prior to my conversation with him that I referred to above):

            “I agree with you and I’m trying to get our team to understand the issue and have it reflected in our language. I don’t want us to do anything to restrict Makerspace for its use as a physical workshop — I spent considerable effort to promote that term for that purpose. We do want to protect the name for the online community, which I think is As I said, I’m trying to get management and legal to understand these distinctions, and be clear that we have no intention to limit use of makerspace.”

            … and despite that and having read the amended/proposed TOS, I still don’t understand what that actually means. So, I’m waiting to see what comes forth.

      2. “Dale Doughtery (founder/executive chairman of Make, guy who coined the term “maker”)”
        Really? He coined the term? No fuckin’ way he “coined the term”, He’s my age, and I have heard “Make”, “Making”, and “Maker” from from dad when I was a kid.

        1. Obviously the verb “to make” existed, as well as the noun “maker.” But, no one really used the term to describe it until he started Make and needed some way to label those people. So, Make was certainly all but exclusively central in popularizing the term. That’s enough for me to say he coined it. I’m somewhat skeptical of it being a popular term circa WW2 (or, really pre 2005).

  3. Notice a trend here?

    Arduino v Arduino beginning to fight over trademarks and distribution, “makerspace” becoming the property of someone who confuses writing a check with inventing something (Hackaday bought out by SupplyFrame). The “makers” have made something and the takers are beginning showing up to cash in on other people’s work then lock them out.


    1. Welcome to relativistic ethics/morals. The law of nature is if you can do it, and it benefits you, then do it. There is no such thing as principles, convictions, morals, etc. All is permissible, all is doable, so long as it benefits you over someone else, or over your current standing. How can you mock them when people enforce this behavior by social laws, and the rebellion of absolutes. This is the result, what did you expect?

  4. “To most of the population…”
    This is not the fist time I’ve heard the claim that most people think a hacker is a negative term.
    Can anyone refer to actual surveys to confirm this?
    More importantly, what hacker gives a shit about what clueless people think?

    1. The hacker who lives in society and understands that the way people perceive them affects how they get treated, irrespective of whether anyone ever walks up and accuses them of crimes? Maybe you think the risk is negligible, but surely you’d draw the line somewhere, even if it took a huge blinking sign above the door reading “Fascists Working for a Whiter America.” Point is, everyone has a line, and people don’t need to present rigorous empirical evidence when deciding where theirs falls. vOv

      Though I, too, would be interested in some studies in perception of this and various other niche terms, and how theoretically synonymous terms compare. I’m sure some marketing firm has research.

      1. Every nerd or geek that went to a public high school should know that the way they are perceived affects the way people treat them.
        And if you got through it without needing a shrink then you probably learned not to worry about what people think about you.

        1. I’m sorry to say it, but people that need “mental help?” for anything other than family abuse, like extreme abuse is just a pussy, and really needs to learn to grow up. EVERYONE gets bullied, not just a select few. The people worth haying out with, are overcomers, not victims.

    2. You just have to ask. You don’t need a survey. Just say the word and watch the carnage.

      Years ago I was given The Hacker Ethic and left it on my desk at work one day. Next day I was called into a meeting and was involved in a month long investigation as to my moral turpitude.

      But a simple explanation couldn’t suffice for those morons. The mere mention of “hacking” or anything even remotely resembling science (saying Dihydrogen Monoxide will throw some idiots into a tailspin). Science and logic have become a black art, voodoo if you will. Something to be afraid of.

      People are terrified and the media isn’t helping. Instead of analyzing the facts, L.I.V.s suck up the crap on “Reality T.V.” and have information spoon fed. If the Kardashians say it’s true then it must be? Right?

    3. One can obtain knowledge by means beyond the magical authority that is the “survey.”

      I can offer the anecdote that, having given thousands of introductions and pitches to people about my local space, and having conferred with everyone else who’s done this in every other space I’ve been in contact with… that overwhelmingly the public associates the term “hacker” with “cracker.” Probably 99% or higher.

      For a while people were trying to take back the term. I’ve never bothered, called it a Makerspace and moved on rather than lecture people about nerdy semantic bullshit that makes them even more confused.

      As to who cares… I care. I volunteer a lot of my time introducing people to the concept of building or repurposing things and how hackerspaces/makerspaces make that happen. I’m not elitist about the “clueless public”. These people aren’t worthless just because they’re not “computer security enthusiasts” themselves. Hacker is a negative term, and when I have someone’s brief attention and passion, there are so many more interesting things to talk about than “proper” definitions.

      1. It seems like a straw man argument to imply that if you are not a conformist then you are an elitist.
        Worrying about what people think is emotional. I guess the good thing is it gives a way for hackers like me to filter out the emotional types. “Oh, you prefer to be called a maker?”

        1. Worrying about what people think is called delusional, and usually classified as a mental illness. Trying to accommodate people by not being a dick, and/or being mentally nuts by some illness you yourself invented in your head is called being normal. In what rational universe would a person, not what to communicate more effectively by changing the way they phrase things, or speak. No one said you need to change your thoughts, but communication is crucial for life, so only an idiot or dipshit would conclude they don’t need to communicate effectively, not including shutting themselves off from all society further increasing their mental problems. People were made to be in relationships, denying this is like denying gravity.

    4. The German hosting service Host-ed’s ToS has item 16.c.ii
      “Content that condones, promotes, contains, or links to warez, cracks, hacks, their associated utilities, or other piracy-related information, no matter whether for educational purposes or not.”

      and item 12.f
      “ does NOT allow sites that provide any content, points of distribution, or ‘links’ to sites that:
      – Contain Proxy, Pirated or Hacking / Phreaking Software (Warez). ”

      Clearly they think that hacking is a bad thing without a need to define what ‘hacking software’ is or what ‘hacks’ are.

  5. Today I am announcing I am copyrighting the concept of 1, this will cover binary, decimal and hex, and if you even think of using the number 1 I’ll sue you, you can count on it! (And if you count on it you owe me a royalty.)

    1. Good, I’ve already submitted paperwork to own 0, so good luck with your computer. :D

      As far as this patent nonsense goes, I see “makerspace” in the same light as I see “supermarket” or “dealership” or other similar generic terms. I just hope that the people who make the decisions about this in Germany see it the same way.

    2. You can’t copyright something you didn’t create. You didn’t create the concept of 1. You’d probably be able to trademark “1” for a specific purpose but that wouldn’t hinder other people to use it for all other purposes including calculations.

      BTW: I don’t understand why otherwise technical people have such a problem separating copyrights, trademarks and patents. They are completely different things created for different purposes.

      1. “1” wouldn’t be trademarkable. It’s been tried. It’s not unique enough to identify the company or product or some logic along those lines. To put it another way, trademarking “1” wouldn’t fly but you can potentially trademark “1-off shirts”.

        At least as far as I know in the U.S.

        1. To the contrary: several entities have successfully registered “1” in various forms as a trademark for various goods and services. For example U.S. Trademark Registration No. 4,505,031 covers “1” for use with wine.

          1. Interesting. The samples actually show the bottle as “uno” but the box as “1”. I stand corrected.

            I used to work in a TM filing office and things like “1” were always rejected (not by me). That was a long time ago though. Different staff different yard stick?

            Oh well, lawyers can work that nonsense out and leave the more interesting crap to the rest of us.

  6. How can that be ever legal? That is, persecuting someone who has used a name before some retard decided to register it, forcing them to rename their operations? It’s wrong on so many levels – with duest of due diligences you couldn’t predict that someone will try to register a name you use and you don’t claim exclusivity on it. Are we going to ditch lex retro non agit? Should anyone having a website trademark its name just because someone shady could claime trademark on it in the future? It sounds ridiculous.

  7. *sighs*

    Called em today, got a reply by mail too – they’ll do a Press Release about it later.

    “We are currently (as we speak) working on the exact wording (Press Release Ready) to explain exactly what I said on the telephone this morning.

    If all parties to this email can wait (latest) until close of business I will gladly provide you with our written answer.
    Which will say exactly what I said on phone – but in proper German.

    Main point is – we have NO intentions of taking over or taking away any of the Maker Spaces Open Platform / Community attributes.

    Thanks for your patience


    Phill Handy
    General Manager”

    1. Thanks for doing the legwork and doing something about an issue you’re concerned about, rather than just bitching on a website.

      It sounds like lawyers got a bit hungry and aren’t quite in line with the organization’s wishes. Almost the exact same thing that happened with Make this week. I’m easily convinced by people who seem nice, so, I treat it with a healthy dose of hesitation, but they seem like good people. Or, they’re backpeddling from community upset. Either way it seems not as bad as first impression.

      Actually filing a trademark is a bit of a hard case against them though. They know they have to protect it or they’ll lose it… so I’m skeptical of “Oh, we’ll let everyone keep using it, it’s no problem” type of stuff.

    2. The answer Mr Handy gave is not satisfying IMO, because the “we have NO intentions of taking over or taking away” does not hold water: if the “Marke” is granted once, the owner *has* to take legal action if others use it without permission, or the trademark can be deleted (is that the term to use?). So the only acceptable solution where the term is not taken away is for UnternehmerTUMMakerSpace GmbH to give permission to use the trademark to any organization which want to use it (free of charge). But why then apply in the first place.

      IMO the DPMA should deny the application because its a generic term, and you can’t get trademarks for those also in Germany. This means also that “UnternehmerTUM MakerSpace GmbH” does not have to be afraid that someone “steals” their company name.

      1. These mirror my thoughts and many others exactly.

        There is nothing binding about “Oh, we’re nice people, we’ll give permission for everyone to use it.”, further, I object that they would get to instill themselves as the custodians of the term or that anyone would have to ask permission to use it.

        If they want to trademark a term, they can trademark the full name of their space, not just plant a flag on an adjective.

  8. Some notes, to put this into perspective:

    a) This is an offshoot of the Technical University in Munich, so hardly a “greedy corporation”. This is probably just a company outfit because it’s required by tax code and/or needed to buy supplies and sell them to people.
    b) As any company, they are pretty much forced to apply for a trademark for their own name to prevent someone else from doing it and sueing them out of their own name. As it is, they probably wouldn’t even mind a negative outcome making the trademark unregisterable.
    3) This is only in Munich by name. For whatever reason, Computer Sciences at the Technical University of Munich has been banned to beyond the city borders, almost an hours’ drive by car, into a small town lovlingly called “Novogarchingsk”.

          1. There are several universities in Munich, you are most probably referring to the LMU (Ludwig Maximilian University people commonly only refer to as “the university”) whereas the article refers to an outfit connected to the Technical University.

    1. Point b is not correct, at least not in Germany. Trademarks don’t simply work by a “who grabbed it first” logic.
      Actually, doing business under a name does grant you a (limited) trademark protection and the ability to challenge a trademark that was assigned none the less. It’s more complicated in detail and I am unwilling to try to translate a lot of legal terms with a questionable outcome.
      In essence, though, registering a trademark and suing an existing company doing business is something that doesn’t work in Germany as it does in the US.

      Concerning the various universities in Munich, there’s two big ones: LMU and TUM, which partly offer the same subjects, like e.g. computer science, but are distinct entities. The UnternehmerTUM is, as the name implies, a spinoff of the TUM, mainly geared towards providing industry contacts to students and facilitate entrepreneurship, which basically means encouraging students to found companies.

      From what I had to do myself with the UnternehmerTUM, I doubt there is bad faith involved with this attempt to register a trademark. It still is a dick move, though, and I support the outrage and figuratively flipping them the bird.

      The connection between UnternehmerTUM and Susanne Klatten that was mentioned elsewhere:
      For the non German speaking people: She is, mong other things, the head of the board of directors of the UnternehmerTUM, which is technically not the same company, but practically the UnternehmerTUM Makerspace is quite likely just another shell for legal or bookkeeping reasons. I highly doubt she has any personal affiliation with any day to day business the UnternehmerTUM does. Such board seats in university spinoffs along with some honors position at the university are not an uncommon thing to hand out to high execs of companies cooperating with a university. The usual outcome is that the exec can say they support education and the university can claim “street cred” for having reallife business people on the name list.

  9. This mirrors our local “makerspace.” Ours is also heavily influenced by a university, and CEO’ed by a “serial entrepreneur.” It’s really a business incubator trying to cash in on the popularity of the hackerspace/makerspace thing.

  10. I really have to disagree with the comparison of the term makerspace and the brandname TechShop. While the term makerspace has naturally developed and grown over time within the maker community just out of the need of having a word for describing this not-so-much-different-from-a-hackerspace-thingy (nice wordsmithing btw.), the brandname TechShop was coined and established by the company behind the brand by means of upright branding and marketing work of the company and then lateron became deservedly kind of a synonym to “open workshop” or “makerspace”. It can be more or less accurately observed how the two terms deveoped by just typing them into Google Trends, the graphs tell you the two stories.

    1. I’m sure someone cares that the all mighty you disagrees with how how any countries trademark system works.. Let’s let Germany know what you think so we can stop it!!

  11. An example of how trademark law can be abused can be found by looking up World Wildlife Fund VS World Wrestling Federation over the letters WWF. Note that World Wildlife Fund has failed to sue other organizations or businesses whose initials happen to be WWF.

    To any person or business attempting to trademark or otherwise lay claim to the word makerspace, I point out Games Workshop and their attempt to trademark “Space Marine” and “Space Marines” despite decades of prior use in short stories, novels, role playing, board and video games by many other authors and companies.

    The widespread prior use of makerspace should have it firmly established as a generic term and not possible to trademark except as part of a stylized logotype or in combination with one or more additional words forming the name of a business or other entity.

    That’s an odd bit with trademarks, a generic term can be used in a trademark of the *shape and/or style* of the word used as a logo. For example if you owned a paper distribution company and wanted to name it PAPER, you couldn’t just trademark that word. But if you had a graphic design where PAPER was stylized as a sort of gradient of the papermaking process from trees to finished product, *that graphical image* could be trademarked. The problem with such trademarks is it makes referencing it difficult in written documents. “For the purpose of this document, PAPER shall refer to the PAPER logotype depicted at the beginning of the document.”

  12. Apple and “STARTUP”
    This story reminds me of Apple Computer’s attempt to trademark the term “Startup” internationally. Is it safe to assume they failed ? A web search indicates it was a big issue in 2013.

    I don’t know what gets in the minds of companies to try this kind of crap… they don’t stop until it hits the fan.

  13. Hello Hackaday’ers

    Die neu gegründete UnternehmerTUM MakerSpace GmbH betreibt ab dem 1. Juni den MakerSpace im neuen Entrepreneurship Center auf dem Forschungscampus in Garching.
    MakerSpace ist eine öffentlich zugängliche, 1.500 qm große Hightech-Werkstatt, die Start-ups, Ingenieuren, Architekten, Designern, Bastlern und Tüftlern den Zugang zu Maschinen, Werkzeugen und Software bietet. Mit dem Namen MakerSpace bringen wir unser Anliegen zum Ausdruck, Anziehungspunkt für eine lebendige Community von Makern aus den unterschiedlichsten Bereichen zu werden. Wir haben uns zudem entschlossen, MakerSpace als Wortmarke anzumelden, damit wir sicher sein können, den Namen uneingeschränkt für die Kommunikation nutzen zu können.

    Wir haben aber überhaupt kein Interesse daran, anderen Werkstätten und Makerspaces den Namen streitig zu machen oder zu verbieten. Ganz im Gegenteil – zusammen mit Makern und anderen MakerSpaces und Maker Messen wollen wir die Maker Community in Deutschland stärken!

    Der MakerSpace startet seinen Betrieb am 1. Juni – alle Maker und Interessierten sind sehr herzlich eingeladen, uns zu besuchen und sich zu informieren.

    Greetings from Garching,
    Phill Handy

    1. Here’s the Google Translatrix of the above comment:

      Hello Hackaday’ers

      UnternehmerTUM Makerspace GmbH newly founded operates from 1 June to Makerspace in the new Entrepreneurship Center on the research campus in Garching.
      Maker Space is a publicly accessible, 1,500 square meter high-tech workshop, the start-ups, engineers, architects, designers, hobbyists and tinkerers provides access to machines, tools and software. Named Makerspace we bring our concerns expressed to be an attraction for a vibrant community of makers from different areas. We decided also to register Makerspace as a word mark, so that we can be sure to use the name without restriction for communication.

      However, we have absolutely no interest in other workshops and maker spaces to make the name dispute or prohibit. Quite the contrary – along with makers and other Maker Spaces and Maker fairs we want the Maker community strengthening in Germany!

      The Makerspace starts its operation on 1 June – all makers and those interested are very welcome to visit us and be informed.

      Greetings from Garching,
      Phill mobile

    1. Maybe as explanation for everyone (like me) expecting moar faster – Unternehmer TUM has a 200 people event today to manage, so thanks Phill for taking the time of your schedule.

      Will try to manage to visit the Makerspace next week, maybe we can then fix the issue

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