Sorry, you can’t geocode anymore – the word ‘geocode’ is a trademark owned by Geocode, Inc. of Alexandria, Virginia, USA. So please find another English word for the process of finding an address’s geographical position.

This isn’t even trademark bullying – trademark bullying looks sane in comparison to such blatant appropriation of the English language. I find myself wondering why Openstreetmap is yielding to it. Is a cease & desist letter all it takes ?

Choosing one’s battles carefully is a good reason for restraint – even squashing frivolous lawsuits costs money (thus making justice inegalitarian – but I digress) and even with money it requires technical knowledge, patience and zeal, as this USPTO report to congress shows. But I find such trolling so disgusting that I’m inclined to impulsively forgo short-term financial rationality for holy sword wielding, against the advice of calmer minds.

Precautionary appeasement measures may be best to protect one’s material interests in the strictest sense and in the short term. But while the wisdom of precaution before rash reaction may be acknowledged, does one really want to project the image of a mark that can be easily pushed around ? Is that in one’s best interests ? And in Openstreetmap’s case, are those the actions that best foster the spirit embodied by a project whose members have a strong interest in protecting the commons ?

Rousing up a crusade might actually be the rational choice against intellectual property trolls – costly in the short term but rational in the long term. Only in an organized fashion though – the targets of such bullying behaviour stand no chance if they revolt alone – unless they are, like Newegg, financially powerful enough to fight back or if they are members of some intellectual property mutually assured destruction cartel (I’m conflating patents and trademarks, which are very different domains – but they have trolling plagues in common). Even a fairly large project such as Openstreetmap is a soft target that can’t sustainably fight alone.

So sheep banding together to stand their ground and defend the public domain against predators is the only realistic option. The only downside is that we are going to make lawyers rich… We’ll have to live with that and mitigate the bad feelings by favoring intellectual-property lawyers with values favourable to the protection of the public interest. Now, how do the targets of intellectual property trolls connect each other to pool their resources ?

Meanwhile, the verb ‘to geocode’ remains generic English language word and I’ll stand by that even if a US court decides otherwise. Silly fight ? Yes – I have absolutely no skill whatsoever in choosing my battles, but unending masses of people like me is what it will take to wear down intellectual property trolls.