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The PJ Tatler

by
Nina Yablok

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July 30, 2012 - 2:52 pm

UPDATE 9:19pm PDT July 30, 2012: @Instapundit has been turned over to Glenn Reynolds. His RSS feed should be up and running shortly. We couldn’t save the “followers” list so please re-follow @Instapundit.

Thanks everyone for the help!

Remember in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her homies made it to the Emerald City? Just when you think everything is going to be okie-dokie-fine and they are all scrub-a-dubbed up, the Wicked Witch of the West rides by on her broomstick and writes “SURRENDER DOROTHY” in black smoke across the sky.  Well sometimes as an attorney, I feel like I need to hire a skywriting plane to get a response from other attorneys.  But right now I’m thinking the Internet, and specifically Twitter, might be the best way to get a response. Let me tell you why.

First the short version, if you don’t want to read the whole sad tale: I’m an attorney. I’m trying to reach Twitter’s legal department. I can’t by any conventional means. I’m asking for help by tweeting #RespondTwitter and linking to this blog post.

Now the whole story:

I’m all for automation, and given a choice I will do business online before I’ll go to a store or print out and mail or fax in some form.  Give me the chance to fill out an online form for something and I’m a happy camper… usually.

So I was my usual happy camper self when, after Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, asked me to try to get the Instapundit Twitter handle back for him, I found that Twitter had a special page for submitting trademark problems.  Instapundit is Glenn Reynolds’ registered trademark.

The Instapundit situation was unique in that it wasn’t a poacher or typical infringer who had taken the trademark as a Twitter handle. In our case, a fan had gotten to Twitter before my client and had used the @Instapundit Twitter account to push my client’s RSS feed through the Twitter account. Other than not being able to respond to direct tweets, this was OK with Glenn. He was going to use the account to do the same thing: push his RSS feed; he’s a big proponent of opening up the wild wide world of internet communications to everyone.

However, when Glenn modified his website, the RSS feed information changed. And the fan who had started the Twitter account never updated the link with the RSS feed. So the Twitter account with the Instapundit registered trademark is not tweeting. It’s dead, Jim.

And worse yet, the Instapundit trademark is associated with Glenn’s reputation as a very prolific blogger. Therefore, having a dead Twitter feed is beyond “not a good thing”; it’s a dilution of the mark’s value.

Direct tweets to the fan who opened the account resulted in no response.  We don’t know if the individual is dead or alive, bored or fed up, retired to a tropical island with no internet access, or what.

So I put in my somewhat simple trademark issue request on Twitter’s handy-dandy trademark issue form. And waited. And waited. Two weeks later I got an email saying they had received my form and would process it.  One small step for doing things right.

Two weeks after that I got an email with the subject line “Twitter Support: update on Trademark Issue – (tradename)” at 5:14 on a Friday night. The email said, “Please read this carefully and respond to confirm that your report as currently submitted is complete and valid or reply with the additional information required as described below. We will not be able to investigate further and this ticket will be closed unless we receive a response to this message.” It then had the same questions as on the original form I had submitted.  It did not clarify what question had not been answered to their satisfaction.

So I restated my case in slightly different terms, and sent back the email.  I received the exact same email again at 7:12 p.m., and again at 9:12 p.m., and again at 12:05 a.m. the next morning. I responded to all of the requests except the last one because I was pretty sure by that time that the LOLcats had taken over Twitter’s automated system.

I waited another 2 weeks and sent an email to Twitter’s support email again, basically saying “what’s up?” and I almost immediately received a reply saying, and I quote, “You tried to update a request that has been closed. Please submit a new request at http://support.twitter.com/forms. You can also visit our help center at http://support.twitter.com for self-help solutions to common problems. Thanks!”

Well sorry, but no thanks. I’ve done that already.

But I R an attorney. I know things. Like the Scarecrow, I have a Doctorate in Thinkology. One thing I know is that I can look up the “agent for service of process” for companies in California. The agent for service of process is the human being (or company) who (or which) is supposed to accept official legal papers on behalf of the company.

In this case the agent for service of process for Twitter was a human being (yay), not a company, and the very person who appears to be either associate general counsel or general counsel for Twitter. In other words, I had the name and address to whom I could address a letter. And this is a person who should understand that a letter from an attorney about a trademark issue should be answered. And even if he has a secretary and an undersecretary and a person who answers the mail, as general counsel AND agent for service of process, there’s a good chance someone sentient will open a letter.

You might say: Nina, why didn’t you just pick up the phone and call this guy? I would normally make a phone call, but while most attorneys have their phone number listed on the Bar Association’s attorney listings, the Twitter attorneys don’t (and I can understand why).

So I wrote a letter nicely asking Twitter to check into things. I told them about my problem and my little episode with the 4 emails late on Friday night, and ended with:

“I am disinclined to submit another form through your system since it appears to be … well let’s be honest, possessed.”

Hopefully my cheerful demeanor does not belie the fact that I have a serious and legitimate trademark issue on which I would like to have someone seriously act.

I sent my letter on July 12, 2012, by Federal Express to Mr. Alexander Macgillivray, and it was delivered by Federal Express on July 13, 2012.

It’s been another two weeks, and I’ve yet to hear anything back. But the @Instapundit account has been suspended, so I thought (naively I admit) that the case had been reopened and was being handled. I wrote back to trademark support to ask for an update and was again told: “your issue has been closed.”

So where do I go from here?  Phone call? Fugettaboutit.  Their automated phone system has two choices: Customer Support – which sends you back to their website; and Communications – which tells you to send an email to their PR firm.

Maybe I should go to court and get an Order to Show Cause why Twitter shouldn’t be required to have a human being talk to me?  Well that would be the exact type of heavy-handed legal maneuver I dislike so much in other attorneys.

Do I hire the Grace L. Ferguson Airline (And Storm Door Co.) to skywrite “RESPOND TWITTER” over San Francisco?  I would worry that anything to do with Judy Garland could cause a stampede in San Francisco. Besides, that’s just a little tacky, don’t you think?

So I’m writing this blog post, which I will tweet about, and hopefully I can communicate with Twitter, Inc., in the format which they created. Hopefully Twitter will take this attempt to talk to a human being about a real legal issue in the spirit in which it’s intended, which is simply: I’ve run out of more traditional ways to get your attention and I don’t want to ask a judge to order you to just send me an email from a human being.

And for what it’s worth, Twitter’s legal department, in fact the very same individual to whom I wrote more than 2 weeks ago, is apparently all in favor of attorneys using non-traditional approaches. Although I’m not sure he actually thought someone outside of his organization would do so.

Please re-tweet #RespondTwitter and link to this blog post.  Please do NOT Direct Tweet to Twitter or Twitter support. I will contact @support and ask them to track this hashtag and to read this blogpost.  I don’t want  to abuse the system by having everyone direct messaging  them. I just want a human to talk to me. If this doesn’t work, I may be back to ask for more help.  For now please just re-tweet with the hashtag. I’ll let y’all know if it works.

Nina Yablok is the owner of The Law Office of Nina Yablok, a business and corporate law firm in Milpitas, California (near San Jose) specializing in representing privately held businesses. She has been the PJ Media attorney since its inception. Nina’s been active with both the State Bar of California and Santa Clara County Bar Association’s Business Law sections. She has written and lectured extensively in the areas of independent contractor disputes and business start-ups.
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