Thursday, 27 April 2017

MakerSpaceGate part deux!

So after Makerspacegate part 1, I made contact with a few different IP specialists and today I had an interesting phone call discussing how the Maker community might protect the terms Makerspace and Hackspace… For what it’s worth here are the take away notes I took from todays call...

My take away notes are;

  • If we attempted to protect Makerspace or Hackspace it would be a collective mark we would be applying for as an ordinary trademark distinguishes goods and services of a single trader/entity. (more info about collective trademarks here
  • To do this we would need a legal entity (could be a company, an individual or a charity etc) 
  • The entity would need to have a set of rules that dictate what needs to be in place to allow usage of the terms,
  • User of the term would then need to be members of the collective
  • The actual applications would take around an couple of ours of work and cost up to £800 for UK and Europe (possibly around 200 for UK only and it is not completely clear atm how brexit will effect european trademarking)
  • Defending collective trademarks if needed would be costly.
  • Gratnells application (as they say they instructed their legal team last week) should reasonably be removed in around a months time... we need to be vigilant that they follow through.
  • If Gratnells had succeeded and not agreed to withdraw the TM's then we could have argued (in court) that they had been registered in bad faith..... however costs++++++++ :(

Finally... its almost a shame that we didn't get to challenge the application as we could have argued that these terms were not distinctive and in common parlance which if successful would have sorted the problem out once and for all!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017


Earlier this week I was in a twitter conversation stemming from the age old debates around terms and naming of spaces (makerspaces hackspaces, hackerspaces, fablab, innovation spaces etc) and what they mean to different parts of maker culture in terms of openness. During this I discovered that a UK company Gratnells had applied for a UK and Europe trademark on "Makerspace".

I obviously felt strongly that this was not a good move for the maker communities which include many vol orgs, public sector, education and companies that widely use this term. So I began to challenge it. I'm writing this blog to state what actions I took, what others did and the outcomes, in case this needs to happen again. Although (as I'll reveal later in the post) the outcome of this episode was positive, I'm not saying that this forms a recipe for successfully challenging this stuff... it's just what I did and I present most of it without comment..

So firstly.. I remained polite and questioned publicly on twitter why Gratnells were trying to trademark this term and used some hashtags to try and get maker accounts to share this. I felt it was important to set the tone of this tweet as stern and concerned but not aggressive. (I think us passionate maker types can be a bit prone to grumpy swipes ...certainly true of me at times) 

I also behind the scenes Direct Messaged (DM'd) a group of key people who actively tweet stuff relating to Makers to try and build awareness that there might be an issue. Lots of retweets then occurred and people started talking to me in DM about this.

Interestingly in the space of an hour I had been put in contact with 2 Intellectual Property (IP) specialists and had offers for connections to others.

I also (again behind the scenes) contacted 4 larger companies who Gratnells supply too.. Now.. I did this as the companies are companies who have supported and financially sponsored different maker events I felt that they needed fair warning that this situation might result in some conflict between the communities and them down the line...and obviously I am keen to see companies continue to sponsor stuff!  

Interestingly I also got contacted by 3 university based innovation spaces I have contact with from around the UK who were asking to be kept in the loop and also 2 of which wanted my opinion on whether the trademark would effect their usage of the term makerspace in their branding. This was of note to me in terms of the origin of this whole issue was in a debate around the usage of the term an access to spaces for different parts of the community.

So by the end of the day Gratnells responded to my tweet and stated they would not be defending the trademark and would issue a statement on their website the flowing day.. which they duly did here.

Finally it seemed prudent (and was advised) to archive the Gratnells response page and related tweets in case they are removed in the future which has been done and indeed I've got a few people involved to do this as well for redundancy.
So there we go... MakerspaceGate.. It throws up some interesting points for the global maker culture about protecting our assets and as ever about openness and the naming of spaces. I was heartened to see that Gratnells responded to this promptly and in good faith and I am now quite enamoured with Gratnells storage solutions which still remain available from many maker supporting businesses!

So Hackaday have picked up on the story (interestingly they were tagged in on twitter but didn't respond or get involved but then someone submitted the story to them via the tips channel) Their post is here. Also the mighty Marc Barto has blogged citing some of the options we might have had to take had Gratnells not de-escalated their position as quickly. Marcs post here.

Props to @chickengrylls @carwynedwards @iamclarec @marcbarto for really getting stuck in and networking me into people who might have helped had this gone further... top stuff.