The Guild Trademarked

As one of the oldest, largest and most powerful guilds in all of online gaming, The Syndicate® has developed a strong reputation over the years. We seek to protect that reputation from misuse of our guild name and have taken the step of Trademarking our guild name "The Syndicate®" along with our logo and our motto.

There are a number of cases where guild's have taken our guild name knowingly and perhaps unknowingly and used it. That has resulted in a negative impact to our reputation as a result of that misuse of our name. Thus the name was trademarked and use of that name is restricted.

Explaining The Trademark

What is a trademark?
Per the official definition, A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device which is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product. The terms "trademark" and "mark" are commonly used to refer to both trademarks and service marks.

Trademark rights may be used to prevent others from using a confusingly similar mark, but not to prevent others from making the same goods or from selling the same goods or services under a clearly different mark. Trademarks which are used in interstate or foreign commerce may be registered with the Patent and Trademark Office. The registration procedure for trademarks and general information concerning trademarks is described in a separate pamphlet entitled "Basic Facts about Trademarks".

You can read all about US Trademark Law HERE The law is spelled out in great detail so if you have any questions about it, that is a good resource to turn to.

What does having a federal mark do for us?
Owning a federal trademark registration on the Principal Register provides several advantages, e.g.,

* constructive notice to the public of the registrant's claim of ownership of the mark
* a legal presumption of the registrant's ownership of the mark and the registrant's exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods and/or services listed in the registration
* the ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court
* the use of the U.S registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries; and
* the ability to file the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods.

In gaming terms, the trademark enables us to approach Game Publishers, Game Developers, Internet Service Providers and any gaming related sites/services and require that they deny use of The Syndicate® to any other group but ours. The sole legal right to use The Syndicate® for all Online Gaming uses resides with us. Any other uses of it are in violation of the law.

Do we really own the mark?
Absolutely. In fact we have two servicemarks, not one. There are enough junior detectives out there that can easily verify our claim but to make it easy, our marks are:

Registration Number: 3027852
Registration Number: 3027530

Pertinent dates for our Mark are the date of 02/15/1996 which is the date when the Mark was first used with regards to Online Gaming. The effective date of filing for the Mark is 7/16/2004. And the official date of final approval/registration is 12/13/2005. In order to contest the mark, a group would have to have to be able to PROVE an earlier use of the Mark (i.e. show proof of use in MMO gaming prior to Feb 1996). There are no earlier uses of the Mark as it relates to online gaming thus ours is an indisputable first use claim thus we own the trademark on The Syndicate® for all of its uses pertaining to Online Gaming Guilds/Clans/Organizations.

Does this mark just apply to the USA?
No, it does not. There are international trademark laws in place between most countries of the world. Our Mark is not only a US Federal mark but it is also "International Class 041" and is afforded those international trademark protections in all participating countries of the Madrid Protocol.

In addition, if the online game that a group uses our trademarked name in, is in the US (or one of the many countries that do support international trademark law) then even if they are from one of the very few countries that don’t support international law, the gaming company will enforce the trademark and terminate its use in game unless specific permission is obtained by the trademark owner.

You can read the International Trademark Treaty, in great detail, HERE if you wish.

What Is The Definition/Scope Of Your ServiceMark?
Both of our marks have the same definition which is: Entertainment services, namely, an online gaming guild providing in game opportunities for proliferating game expertise and camaraderie among gamers supported by a web site featuring multimedia materials.

To put that in online gaming terms, it protects the use of The Syndicate® OR any deliberate mispelling of it OR any confusingly similar names (and that is the legal definition of confusingly similar not your personal opinion) from being used by any online gaming guilds, in any online gaming world and on any supporting websites.

How come I see other Syndicate's registered?
To put it simply, trademarks are only valid for a specific definition. There is a music recording/producing company called The Syndicate that has their name trademarked as we have ours. Their trademark protects someone else from entering that same field and using that name just as our protects us within the context of online gaming.

Trademark Enforcement

What Constitutes A Violation Of Your Mark?
The law defines Trademark violations as, of course, using the name The Syndicate as your guildname. But that isnt the only way you can violate the mark. It is also a violation to use a deliberate misspelling (ex: Cyndicate) or to have a confusing similar name (ex: The Racing Syndicate or The Syndicate Guardians).

An amusing story about "confusingly similar", and how we are completely sure about that part of the law is that when we were in the process of registering our mark, there was another mark application out there called "The Racing Syndicate". It was actually for a game but because a game and a gaming guild are very similar, it was determined that legally our two marks were confusingly similar. So our claim to register was not able to proceed so long as that claim existed since they had submitted theirs first. Fortunately for us, they did not complete the process and the application was marked as abandoned and ours were able to finish. The point is, however, that while some online guilds may claim "The XXXXX Syndicate" isnt confusingly similar, it is, in fact, legally confusingly similar and it is a violation of our Trademark. Feel free to have our claim reviewed by an Intellectual Property lawyer. We are confident in our legal position.

Can We Use Your Mark As Our Guild/Clan/Organization Name?
No. The Syndicate® does not grant permission to use our Mark to any other groups, for any online gaming related endeavor. That includes, but is not limited to, online gaming guilds/clans/organization names and online gaming related site names. Permission to use The Syndicate® has never been granted and if you see anyone using the mark please report them to us and we will take the necessary action to protect our mark.

What Happens If We Use Your Mark Without Your Permission?
If our mark is used, without our permission, we will take all necessary steps to protect our mark and to stop illegal use of it.. All online games have an EULA (User/Usage Agreement) or a TOS (Term of Service) which contains verbiage prohibiting the violating of a third parties trademarked name. All US companies, and those in most international countries support US and International trademark law. We have spoken to and worked with most of the MMO companies out there and they do support Trademark law. Methods of support and enforcement can vary from company to company but support is widespread.

Usually we try to contact the guild/clan/organization that is illegally using our mark first (if we can locate contact information for them) and offer them the chance to change their name. Failing that, we escalate things to the game company and internet service providers. Since it is a cut and dry case, rapidly the in-game entity is shut down and the related website is terminated. We far prefer to work through the guild itself though and allow them a short, but reasonable, amount of time to change their guild name in game and on their webpage so as to minimize any impact to their members. Some guild's chose to call, what they think is a bluff, and we are forced to escalate things and the same end result occurs: Our Mark is upheld and protected.

Have You Enforced Your Mark Before?
Absolutely. A number of cases have already come up where the Mark was enforced. All of them have been successful since it is a very cut and dry/black and white issue. We own the mark. Using the mark is illegal. Gaming Companies EULA/TOS' prohibit the use of any name that violates a trademark. We can use our own name since you cant violate your own mark by using it but no one else can. Therefore when made aware that a Mark violation exists, gaming companies have been very supportive and helpful.

When dealing directly with guilds/clans themselves things can get more dicey since a number of people feel they are more of a legal expert than a lawyer. It is the armchair quarterback syndrome. In many cases, the guilds/clans we have approached were understanding once they realized the name was, in face, trademarked and they changed their name on their own. In more rare cases we were forced to escalate things. In all cases the same end result occurred. Our Mark was enforced and our "The Syndicate®" was protected.

We have talked to the majority of the major and minor MMO companies and received solid cooperation from them. We continue to approach all remaining companies and any guilds/clans that we are aware of that are using our name. We will continue to do this for the indefinite future. We have found the MMO companies to be very supportive and most often the support comes in the form of renaming guilds incorrectly using our mark and also adding words to the guild creation filters to prevent its use in the future.

Can I misspell to get around the mark?
No, you cannot. Deliberate misspellings are a violation of trademark law as well. Tacking words onto the Mark is also a violation. Legally that is known as being "confusingly similar" and we site a concrete example, above, that we ran into when we tried to register our mark. Some examples of things that would be a mark violation are as follows (Note: this list is NOT all inclusive. These are merely some common examples):
  • The Syndicate
  • The Cyndicate
  • The Syndikat
  • The Sindicate
  • The Syndicate XXXXXX (where XXXXXX is some other word)
  • The XXXXXX Syndicate (where XXXXXX is some other word)

Why are you enforcing your mark?
We have invested many many years into building our reputation as The Syndicate®. We have built that reputation into solid relationships with game developers and the gaming community as a whole. That name has value and meaning and represents the blood, sweat and tears of many years of hard work. To not enforce it would not serve the interests of all those members who have given so much of themselves to the guild for so many years to build us into the premier online gaming guild. It is nothing personal against any other group who is illegally using our name. But it is important that the name and our hard won reputation be protected. We will pursue Mark enforcement against any group, site or individual that is found to be using The Syndicate® in any way that violates our mark. There are no exceptions and there are no waivers of use granted. When we become aware of an infringement, action will be taken.

Do you use a lawyer for enforcement?
We prefer to handle enforcement of our mark in as friendly a manner as possible. With that said, our mark is maintained and enforced by the law firm we have retained to handle mark related issues. First contact is often made by them and they usually handle all aspects of enforcement. Sometimes first contact is made by the guildmaster and sometimes that is sufficient to resolve the mark conflict. Other times the legal team needs to be involved. If necessary we will take all necessary steps, within the law, to enforce the mark although since we tend to pursue clear cut cases of mark infringement, legal action is not often necessary as the law is very clear, in those cases.

Servicemarks are based on services provided. What are your services?
The Syndicate offers a great many services to our members and some to the general gaming public. We are not going to discuss them all here, but we are proud of our involvement in a host of Syndicate services that include, but are not limited to, our annual conferences, submissions to game development books, the articles we have written for gaming publications, guides for specific games or aspects of games, and a line of gaming related products and clothing. We are also developing a service for providing the development community feedback from gamers on what they really want. We even have a paid position on the advisor board for a small MMO company that we hope, one day, will result in a vibrant next generation gaming world that has a positive impact on the whole community. Those are but some of our guild's services. The Syndicate is not simply a collection of people playing MMO's that share a title. We are an online gaming organization that strives very hard to provide outstanding services and benefits for our members and the gaming community.
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