Art from Pixabay
On Christmas Eve I opened my twitter account expecting to see all sorts of holiday posts and art. Instead I was greeted with a trademark dispute between Coin Artist and Coin Defi over the use of the word “$COIN”.
Coin Artist’s Twitter Page
My layman’s summary of the issue is that Coin Defi trademarked “$COIN” for use as a symbol on cryptocurrency exchanges. You can see the trademark status here. Coin Artist uses “COIN” as the symbol for her currency and Coin Defi was not happy about it. They requested that she change her symbol. She then went public with the dispute and the community rallied behind her.
Art from Pixabay
Lacking any legal knowledge outside of some quick googling, I cannot tell you who is legally right, but my common sense rages at the issue enough that I have to share my opinion. “$COIN” is massively generic and a terrible choice for trademarking. If Coin Defi has any hopes of succeeding in the future, they need a more identifiable symbol to use (and not to be jerks to well known members of the community).
The goal of trademarking is to make your product more recognizable. If someone sees the symbol they should know at a glance what it represents. $COIN completely fails at that.
When someone learns about a new cryptocurrency, the first thing they usually do is google it. Just knowing the symbol name, I can barely find anything about the company or the coin itself
The first thing I tried to do was to google “$COIN”. That gave me information about physical coins, a band, and a link to Coin Market Cap. I’ve never used https://coinmarketcap.com/ before, so I have no idea how reliable they are, but they were the most useful hint.
These results include several major and well known coins. It also brings up a list of 60 exchanges, and I didn't see Coin Defi among them. The key takeaways from this are, if you are explicitly looking for $COIN you can find it, but if you are new to the coin there is little chance of you identifying the brand.
Hoping to find more information, I tried googled “$COIN cryptocurrency”. I found these results particularly interesting.
We get three twitter references to Coinbase and information on cryptocurrency in general. To me this proves $COIN is much too generic a term to be trademarked. To put it into perspective, this is what you see when you google ETH. It is crystal clear that ETH is a distinct coin.
In addition to failing at identifying their product, it's also a poor choice from a software development perspective. The dollar sign “$” is a commonly used programming symbol. A few sample uses are:
- $ is used to define variables in various programming languages.
- $ is used as a line separator
- $ can be used as part of unix commands.
If you want even more examples you can find them on wikipedia.
One might expect this only matters to developers, but it actually impacts all of us. In an "Injection Attack", a Hacker pastes a short program into a text box in the hope that the application will execute the code. This is mainly done with SQL and database queries, but hackers will attempt to take advantage of any opening they can.
To prevent this, most text boxes are "sanitized". Before processing the text, the website or program will strip out risky symbols. Oftentimes this includes "$" since it is used for so many things. In Fact that is why my googling was largely useless. From a search engine perspective, "$COIN" is often just "COIN", a generic and common word.
Image from Pixabay
I can’t help but call BS on Coin Defi and their Trademark. I have no idea what the Patent Office was thinking by approving the symbol. I expect it was handled by financial experts, instead of technology specialists, who didn’t properly understand the implications of their decision.
What do you think? Am I way off base? Am I right?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!
HBD earned by this post will be contributed to the “Coin Artist Legal Defense Fund”