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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Legally Revit?


A few months ago I was shocked to learn that the website www.openrevitstandards.com was shut down due to legal actions taken by Autodesk.
Autodesk claimed that the website was infringing their Trademark due to the use of the word Revit in the domain name. Although the owner tried to reason with the Autodesk lawyers, it was of no use: they had to take the site down and surrender the domain name to Autodesk. The website www.openrevitstandards.com is currently redirected to the Autodesk corporate website.

February 13th of this year Autodesk "Customer Care" hit a new low. Revitforum.org, founded and funded by Autodesk customers to provide each other with knowledge, tips and tricks and other insights and dedicated to solving day-to-day problems these paying customers, received a letter claiming Trademark infringement.

That's right: our 17.559 members (as of today) are accused of participating in criminal actions. Even though they put it nicely, we are being acquised of breaking the law...
Let that sink in for a while. Now think about that most likely a vast majority of these 17.559 people have an actual license. Let's say 80% of them has spent around $6.000,- obtaining that license. Which means Autodesk just called a staggering 105 MILLION dollars worth of client revenue more or less a criminal...

Now believe it or not: this post is not meant to start a riot. So I'll leave that subject for what it is (for now), and move on to the important stuff.
This blog is written for two distinct purposes:

1. Informing our members.

Revitforum.org has been founded on the belief that our members are our community.
Their efforts in building this great place from the ground up have to be protected. Their knowledge needs to be preserved in an open and respectful manor.
Therefor we see no other option than to make the actions taken by Autodesk to bring this site down public. We want our members, plus all of you out there who just browse the forums, to know what is going on. We want to ensure you that we will do whatever it takes to preserve this community. Even if it means getting bullied by a multinational with a rather twisted idea of "Customer Care". If necessary we will move the forum to another domain name.

But for now we responded to their letter with a writing of our own. Basically, that says a couple of things:
1. There can not be any Trademark infringement since we do not use (part of) the Revit trademark in any commercial way. We do not provide any commercial service or product. So how can we be harming Autodesk's business then?
2. They claim we invoke something called "initial interest confusion", which basically means we lure people away from the Autodesk website using similar Keywords and metadata-tags for search engines.
We don't. I checked. There is NOT ONE keyword in the Autodesk main page similar to Revitforum.org. Wanna know why? Autodesk does not even have the keyword "Revit" or anything alike in their Keyword list.
3. Our members are by vast majority Autodesk clients (because, well we are a USER forum). O right, and we harbor no less then 37 Autodesk employees. What chances are there these people will get "confused" about what we do vs what Autodesk does?
4. According to US law we can use or refer to Autodesk trademarks as long as:
- We provide a service that cannot be identified without that trademark (productXforum.org does not ring a bell for that many people)
- We only use as much of the mark as necessary. (we only use the word Revit, not AutodeskRevit, not a symbol or sign)
- We don't do anything to suggest sponsorship or endorsement by Autodesk (HELLOOOO!, we keep an annual donation rally to pay for our hosting bill)
5. We cited several lawsuits where a COMMERCIAL use of a trademark was permitted because the user committed to the above rules. We do to, and we're not even having any commercial activity or gain. So shouldn't the logical conclusion be that we are not doing anything wrong?
6. According to ICANN, the organisation controlling domain names and IP-numbers which happens to be endorsed by the US Government, there are three circumstances in which a trademark may be legitimately used without infringement (btw: it's an OR-statement. Visit Autodesk Wikihelp, look for an article called "Revit Formulas for day to day use" to find out what that means):
- when you previously engaged in the same activities without any consequenses. Which we have been doing for two years now. Now, Autodesk could claim they knew nothing about it... But then maybe we shouldn't have 37 employees as a member. Or regular referrals on wikihelp. Or be mentioned in Autodesk twitter messages. Or in Autodesk corporate blogs. Or... well, you get the point.
- When you are commonly known by your domain name. Without being too cocky, I think we can safely say that Revitforum.org has become a solid "brand" in the Revit world (not in the least thanks to all those endorsements from Autodesk)
- When you make a legitimate non-commercial use of the domain name... Need I say more?

btw: in the interest of being open and honest to our members, we posted both the original letter from Autodesk and our response here.

2. Finding support.

We did our research to our best knowledge. Drafted a letter to respond using our biggest words. But we are geeks. Not lawyers. And, since we're a non-profit member-funded community, we cant afford a bunch of expensive lawyers. So if Autodesk sues us, even though they are clearly wrong, we will have to vacate our domain. All we can do is hope Autodesk will come to it's senses.
However, the case of www.openrevitstandards.com does not fill us with confidence. They were in the same spot. And Autodesk just bullied them out of their domain name.
If necessary, we will pack up and leave. We can't afford to go to court. But we don't want to.
We believe we have every right to keep our domain name. To not have to find another home for our community. To not be chased of like some stray dog by the very company whose products we all use and love (and sometimes hate) on a day-to-day basis.

So consider this our cry for help. Help from the entire Autodesk user base out there. We need your support. This is not a call for outrage or to start a digital witch hunt. We simply want you to repost, retweet, Like, Dig, or whatever it is you want to do to show your support (as long as it doesnt involve virtual lynchmobs).

If you want to express your concerns to Autodesk directly, please use one of the following options:
By email: Autodesk Public Relations, feel free to cc a message to revitforum.org
Twitter: @autodeskAEC, @autodeskcare, @AutodeskRevit using the hashtag #LegallyRevit
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AutodeskRevit
On Revitforum: Revitforum.org domain dispute
Or just respond to this blog. We will try to collect all of your responses and hand them over to Autodesk.

Thank you

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