SEO Trademark Registration Terminated

by on 03/15/2010 • 244 Comments | SEO

Two years ago I set out on what would become one of the biggest challenges in my life to date. It ranks up there with starting Outspoken Media, chairing a non-profit and getting married.

On April 24, 2008 I filed my notice of opposition to Jason Gambert’s “SEO” trademark application. On March 11, 2010, I won.

It took two years, $17,004.33 and an untold amount of frustration and self-doubt to get through this. But, what does it all mean? Why did I commit to this? What would have happened had Gambert succeeded in registering the trademark?

We do have some insight from the man himself that he posted to his blog on April 9, 2008:

“My goal in owning the trademark for the word SEO is not to try to force people to change their SEO process, but rather, prevent companies from selling “SEO” as a service under false pretenses.

…We will also be forming a board of directors to oversee changes to the process, and format in which SEO can be sold (basically the BBB for the SEO industry). We will restrict businesses from selling the process of SEO as an “SEO” service if they do not meet the process approved by the SEO trademark requirements. Those approved will use SEO as normal, but will now be able to use the term as SEO™, and will be able to claim that their SEO service is approved under SEO trademark guidelines.

This power is for the people of the Search community and the protection of the general business consumer.”

I’m all for better education, but not from some random guy the industry has never heard of.

On April 7, 2008, Sarah Bird, General Counsel for SEOmoz, published her discovery of Jason Gambert’s SEO registration. Who is Jason Gambert? Yep, that’s what we were wondering, too.

On April 24, 2008, Sarah went on Webcology with Jim Hedger to talk about the SEO trademark opposition deadline and she asked that others get involved. Jonathan Hochman with Hochman Consultants, Matt Foster with ArteWorks and myself (with myself) filed our oppositions. That brought the total number of oppositions to four including SEOmoz.

The SEO industry loves poker, so let’s borrow terminology from the game. The opposers were trying to bluff Gambert. Four oppositions were filed and for several months everyone in the industry was riled up over the registration. It seemed likely that Gambert would fold under industry pressure and the sheer number of deadlines he would now have to meet with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Let’s also not forget about the trail of comments left across the blogosphere in support of Gambert using different identities but all belonging to the same IP address. Thank you Michael VanDeMar for being the best sleuth a girl could ask for! This was becoming a big deal and we knew we had him.

Unfortunately, Gambert called and I was pot committed. I kept getting these glimmers of hope that something would end the process sooner rather than later. I expected Jonathan Hochman’s expedited trial to go through or SEOmoz’s powerful case to win it all. Of course things didn’t work out the way I’d planned.

A year in and the industry had lost interest, Jonathan’s expedited process hadn’t gone through (he still had an open opposition, but at a normal, obscenely slow pace). SEOmoz and ArteWorks had bowed out of their oppositions and I was too committed to back out now. I told my incredible trademark attorney, Cheryl Meide, that I couldn’t do this for much longer. Everyone thought I was insane, I could have bought a beautiful new car for the amount I’d already spent and the other opposers were dropping like flies.

We hit a break when the USPTO said that many of Gambert’s responses to our requests were nonresponsive, evasive, circular, insufficient, incoherent, nonsensical, and failed to comply with the Board’s orders. Those responses would often point to previous filings, sending us on a wild goose chase and of course added to mounting legal fees. Ironically, Gambert spent much of his time telling the USPTO that our case was based on trying to “out-lawyer” him.

Let’s get something straight here. I submitted my notice of opposition as a then 25-year-old individual with a contract job at a startup. Do you think I had the means to “out-lawyer” Gambert? Do you think I had the means to “out-lawyer” any of the other opposer’s cases? I had stubborn morals going for me and a desire to see this through. I was chairing a local non-profit at the time and had the difficult task of raising funds to pay off a massive legal bill we’d accrued in the process of suing a neighboring county. That lawsuit set a statewide precedent for beach access, but it also taught me that doing the right thing can quickly become costly and demoralizing.

I also knew that if I didn’t win this opposition, the registration was going to be sustained. I did not want to throw good money after bad. With so much already invested and no one left standing, I didn’t have much of a choice though. If I stopped I would have wasted a year and a half of time and frustration not to mention thousands of dollars. I’d also stuck my neck above the crowd, so if Gambert wanted to go after someone I’m sure my brand new SEO company would be first in line. The burden was on me to end this once and for all.

On October 29, 2009 the USPTO gave Gambert thirty days to comply with our original discovery requests. Rather than presenting the requested documents and responses, Gambert used his replies to express tidbits like:

“Opposer, aware of the deficiencies of her case grasps at the flimsiest of technicalities. She is seeking to win on a forfeit because it is the only way she can win.”

“In no way was any of my answers “Nonsensical” when they make perfect sense anyone who can understand English can read them.”

Gambert had been instructed to contact his attorney or mine if any requests were unclear. He even threatened to do so to rack up my legal fees. Still, no call or email ever came. I know we asked really tough questions like, “Describe the meaning of “SEO” as used in Applicant’s Application.” The response we got was, “Applicant describes the meaning of ‘SEO’ as used in Applicants Application currently as it is defined.”

Huh? I couldn’t let Gambert win this simply on principle! It was clear that Gambert was trying to circumvent the Board’s orders and refused to cooperate with the proceedings. This allowed us to force judgment.

I’m terrible with dates, but I have a feeling March 11, 2010 will stick with me for awhile. It was our judgment day and the USPTO terminated the trademark application.

Was it worth it? I don’t know. I do know that I learned an invaluable amount about business, trademark law, the SEO industry, my relationships and myself. I never asked the industry to donate to the cause, because this was my responsibility. I chose to pursue this in the face of criticism. I knew that it was something I believed to be wrong. I knew the USPTO did not understand what our industry did or how SEO worked. I wanted to fight for that knowledge and I won. I don’t regret the experience, but I am going to take a breather from hopeless causes for awhile.

Edit: Due to the overwhelming request for a “donate” link, the place to do so is on PayPal to rhea_drysdale [at] yahoo [dot] com. I just got off the phone with my attorney and accountant. Unfortunately, contributions would not be tax deductible, because I am not a non-profit and filed as an individual. I didn’t write this for donations, so don’t feel obligated, there’s just been an enormous outcry and it’s appreciated. If you feel uncomfortable sending a “gift” then email me and I’ll give you the name of my favorite non-profit!

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About the Author

Rhea Drysdale

Rhea Drysdale is the Chief Executive Officer of Outspoken Media. When she isn't fighting for the SEO industry, she's She-Ra on Twitter. Connect with Rhea on Google.

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244 thoughts on “SEO Trademark Registration Terminated

  1. Is there a Paypal account or something where I can send some money to? I want to help pay a (tiny) bit of your immense legal expenses as a sign of my gratitude for sticking with it and winning this battle. I didn’t know this fight was being waged, tbh, or I’d definitely have offered to contribute earlier.

  2. I applaud you for catching that this mark was even up for a Trademark, much less going to bat and putting money on the line to oppose it’s registration.

    Congrats, Cheers, and Thanks.

    Coming from an Intellectual Property background, what I find most surprising in this case is that a TM Examiner let it get past an initial office action. “SEO” is a widely recognized “term of art” within an established industry, and therefor implicitly generic. Its no different than Ford registering “truck” or General Mills attempting to register “cereal”.

    Scouring through the current results for “SEO” in TESS, however, I see that there is at least one similar case yet pending… though, they claim that “SEO” in their case stands for “Strategically Elevating Optimization”.
    http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=doc&state=4006:l03veg.2.33

    If I was into emoticons, this is where I’d insert one rolling its eyes.

  3. I wouldn’t call it a hopeless cause, Rhea. You did learn a difficult lesson–being the only one to stand up against something that is wrong in principle is tough, lonely, and can be disheartening. It sucks to learn that not everyone has integrity, and that many people are content to let things go because it’s easier or, in this case, less expensive. I had no idea this was going on, and it’s a shame you shouldered most of the burden alone. All many of us can do now is thank you for being a person of integrity, and for doing what others who had just as much stake in it (and deeper pockets) couldn’t be bothered to do. Thank you.

  4. Wow, Rhea, I had no idea it had gone that far, or cost you so much. I humbly bow at your feet. (Imagine little bowing smiley emoticon here).

    You rock. And that’s not even close to being enough words to express your true rock-ness.

  5. Thanks guys! I felt incredibly uncomfortable with accepting donations, but I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that I should. I’ll start looking into the best way to set something up that is tax deductible for contributors.

  6. What’s most interesting here is the fact that the rest of the SEO world (not excluding myself) failed to take much action. We may get all riled up and make posts on blogs, say things at events, but when it comes to fighting in the trenches, the number of warriors tends to decline. Not just in SEO, but any battle that’s worth fighting for based on principle. Congratulations to you Rhea.

  7. You mean to say that you spent $17,004.33 out-of-pocket and an untold amount of your own valuable time and effort to protect the “SEO” industry?

    If this was such a burning danger to us all why did the others so half-heartedly pursue their oppositions or drop them altogether?

    I mean I think Jason’s trademark claim smelt worse than a garbage dump after a summer rain. But $17k out of your pocket to stop him?

    • Jonathan Hochman took his opposition to the end. He fought tooth and nail, but we used very different strategies. Their strategy was to attack with the expedited process on the grounds that this was a common term and an industry acronym. The expedited process was thrown out and they had to take this through the normal route. The evidence wasn’t enough and it was terminated.

      That left our opposition and Gambert did a lot to help us with this win!

      Whether this was an enforceable trademark is unknown, but he’s tenacious and I have no doubt actions would have been taken. To what extent it would affect everyone is unclear and we’ll never know now. Again, I think it’s absurd this got as far as it did with the USPTO, but it did.

  8. Rhea,
    I do remember this issue, but like others, got distracted with running a business and attending to clients’ projects.

    I SALUTE YOU. I want to send you some $$ to help recoop some costs… and I encourage other SEO professionals reading this to jump in to help support your VALUED efforts ON OUR BEHALF!

    You have my email, send me your’s and we can exchange info so I can send you some $$.

    My best to you!

    Valerie DiCarlo

  9. I’m ashamed to admit that I hid my head in the sand on the Gambert saga. I went through something similar with my former company – a ludicrous anti-industry patent that dragged on for years – and what it taught me about the patent business was disheartening, to say the least.

    I’d like to second many others. We owe you more than just congratulatory comments and blog posts. It’s our obsession for today’s news (and moving on when that news is stale 30 minutes later) that caused many of us to ignore this situation. We owe you a debt of gratitude, and that debt starts with $17,000.

  10. Wow. Now, more than ever, that She-Rhea avatar of yours seems truly appropriate. I had no idea that the other opposers had backed out and left you to go it alone but I’m certain I’m not the only one who’s glad that you did stick to your guns. You really are the SEO world’s Princess Of Power.

  11. Congrats, Rhea! You followed your convictions, and that is always worth doing … err, unless it includes dropping literal bombs as opposed to legal ones.

    But not only did you follow your convictions, you won! Now is the time for celebration, not self-doubt. Am so very proud of you!

  12. Yes . . . please setup some type of account. I don’t much care, nor should most, if it’s tax deductible or not. If just 250 of us gave you $100 each, that’d be enough to cover your expenses and some of the psychologist bills you may now need. ;-)

    I’m in for $100 (only because I fee there are at least 170 people in the industry that should pay also). If the industry comes up short, I’ll offer to do more (up to $500).

    The companies in the industry perhaps could pitch in some more (SEOmoz, BCI, S&S, even Outspoken).

    No solitary person should have to carry this financial burden as it gives you no advantage having won this case.

    Brent

  13. Congratulations Rhea!!!

    I have only been in the industry for 4 months (newbie) but you have ensured that I will be able to continue. It took a lot of courage to fight back in the way that you did, especially when looking at how the rest of the opposition faded away. Your perseverance is truly an inspiration.

    Thank you!

  14. Rhea,

    I wanted to leave a comment but how can words possibly express?!

    I am in awe of just how amazing of a person you are. Thank you so much for fighting this fight. You’re truly an inspiration :)

  15. Very cool She-rah.. glad to see this one get some closure – GREAT WORK. I am curious if we should be concerned about one Clinton Cimring?

    http://www.huomah.com/News/Latest/SEO-being-trademarked-AGAIN-.html

    Is this truly a problem we need to keep fighting? If so then maybe a permanent community kitty should be set up for donations for future efforts? Have a read on that guy and let us know exactly how much we should be worried about the latest incarnation of this madness.

    • Dittos, what she said, what they said. Donating.

      Hard to believe it’s been 2 years. I’ve been full of respect for you since that WebmasterRadio who with Sarah when you inquired how to take action. I’m humbled at the same time.

      Because of you, we don’t have to pay Gambert a license to use the term SEO, or who knows what the ramifications would have been.

  16. Excellent work Rhea. I, like so many others, had heard various parts of this story, but once the stories stopped, promptly forgot about it. Thank goodness somebody with some common sense and integrity continued, despite the obvious stress and difficulties incurred.

    It’s a fantastic achievement and one that you can rightly be proud of. It is a shame that it had to go on so long and cost you so much, despite the obvious futility of Gambert’s claims. Congratulations all the same though, you put your neck on the block when others weren’t prepared to and got the right result for us all.

  17. Rhea is my new favorite superhero. Thanks for having the courage to continue to fight this – and with your own money! Standing on principles is something of a lost art and I’m encouraged to see such a young, smart and talented woman battling alone on behalf of an entire industry.

    Count me in for a donation to recoup legal expenses, and for a lifetime supply of food & bevs at any conference, tweetup or otherwise – we gotta keep feeding your wonderful spirit :-)

  18. Rhea – Our community needs more people like you. Thank you for your efforts, sacrifice and determination! We look forward to contributing to the cause – and it’s legal fees!

  19. I’m thinking we have a new term that we can use called the “Gambert.” Like, “that guy tried to gambert an entire industry out of petty self interest.” Or, “I just ate some really bad Mexican food, and I need to go take a giant gambert.”

    • Watch this Gambert guy try to go and patent or trademark his name now so no one can use it in generalities when we’re all saying he’s a tool.

      Ha ha…it’s the newest infomercial: The Gambert 6500…it slices, it dices, it insults the SEO community….

      Reah–You go girl. :)

  20. You rock. :)

    More often than not it is emotionally taxing to stand up for what you know is right, especially doing it solo. I had no idea you kept at it this long. Sorry I didn’t follow the events after the initial investigation. :(

  21. Rhea,

    Your willingness to stay with this one through the entire process means a great deal to those of us who believe in the professionalism of our industry. Count me in as one who can’t wait to donate.

  22. I am now just imagining how the “seo world” could have been different if he got the trademark.
    No more SEA on “SEO” ;-) Would have made CPC cheap for him…
    Many regulations and additional costs for new businesses.
    Maybe fixed ways of doing seo.

    Good thing what you did :D

  23. I had forgotten all about this, or at least thought it had been resolved. Thanks so much, Rhea, for keeping on this. You are a super hero in our industry. Count me in as well to donate towards the recouping of your legal costs. It is the very least I as well as any SEO can do.

  24. A story, to make you feel a little better:

    My old company provided web-based tradeshow services. One day, we got a notice from a company that claimed they had patented the idea of putting information on a web page from a database and anyone who did this owed them money. This was about 2002, if I recall, so we were pretty sure they weren’t the first ones with this idea. Their patent application also read like a 1st-graders science project. It literally looked something like this:

    [ Database ] –> { Magic Elves } –> [ Web Site ]

    We assumed it would all blow over, but it didn’t. They started threatening professional and trade associations with what was essentially extortion. It turned out their patent application hadn’t been approved, but frightened mom and pop associations paid the money anyway, which only encouraged them.

    More people got involved, the legal fees mounted, and what we thought at first was a joke dragged on and on. Then, one day, they got greedy. They sent out their letters to big associations. Apparently, they didn’t check their list, because one of those groups was the American Bar Association. Their patent claim died shortly thereafter.

    MORAL: If you’re going to be a douchebag, don’t do it in front of 100,000 lawyers.

  25. Fantastic Job Rhea!!

    Are there protective measures in place to prevent someone else from trying to accomplish the same thing Gambert was trying to do?
    or
    Is this now a continual fight our industry will have acknowledge and take action when necessary?

    Thank you!

  26. Rhea, you’re a superStarDeluxe™

    I too remember being enraged back in the day and then promptly forgetting about it too.

    Please do set up a way of accepting donations, there’s no reason on earth why you should feel embarrassed about accepting them!!

    Actually donations should hopefully go beyond the financial cost that you’ve had to endure. You deserve a nice holiday on everyone in the industry that you’ve fought to protect.

  27. Rhea I had no idea about this until you mentioned it at SMX a couple weeks ago. I’m definitely in with the others! There’s no way you should pay that much money to deal with one d-bag. Plus… I owe you for our dinner that first night! Not many people would put up such a fight, especially using their own money. Thanks for being so ridiculously awesome! You really ARE a super hero. :)

  28. If I remember correctly, you had/have an avatar with you portrayed as somewhat of a superheroine. That day has come to pass!

    Extremely impressed with the determination to see it through. A huge thanks from myself and the entire industry.

  29. Congratulations, it sure is an interesting story to tell with a happy ending and it’s great that it all worked out in the end. Much kudos, hopefully the world will balance itself and great things will happen for you now :)

  30. Rhea, you are a hero. I’m not plugged in to the SEO world, and didn’t hear about any of this until today. This accomplishment affects many of my colleagues and friends, and it happened without many of them knowing their backs were being watched. Congratulations, and Thank you!

  31. You should try to convince someone at one of the big SEO conferences to throw a poker game/tourney for you. Half the proceeds go to charity, the other half towards finishing off this legal bill.

  32. Wow, I had no idea, you go GIRL! Well bloody done my dear, and thank you for sticking to what you know is right. You have some serious balls girl, respect!

  33. Wow, talk about putting your money where your blog is. I echo Brent & Danny and the others in asking for a link to let us all chip in something.

    I too thought this thing had been blown out of the way. I think the whole industry owes you a debt for not losing focus and staying with this.

  34. Amazing story of perserverance and sacrifice! Thanks so much for your dedication in seeing this through completion! Count me in for $100 as well!

  35. I’m in for $100 also. I am new to SEO and had no idea that this was even happening. The entire industry owes you BIG TIME!

  36. “I just ate some really bad Mexican food, and I need to go take a giant gambert.” – Quote of the Year! What a schmuck!

    I think you should get the Trademark for SEO Rhea, that way you could protect it for the rest of us . . . 4 EVAR!

    • That would be awesome. Someone already asked if winning the trademark opposition meant I got the trademark. I wish! I’m not entitled to it, but neither was Gambert. Would love to see a certain non-profit own it or other impartial and respected owner… :)

  37. I’m broke, but I want to donate 4,33 (sorry about that, but then again: if 4000 people would do the same…)
    Where’s your paypal donation button?

    • Thanks for the info Jon.

      And many thanks to you Rhea, for keeping us from almost getting gamberted without even realizing it.

  38. As a former IP specialist turned SEO I am also shocked the proceedings got as far as they did.

    Great job, Rhea.

  39. First off, congratulations and I have to say I’m very impressed. Second, a big boo-hiss to SEOMoz and the others for bailing. That’s cheap and cowardly of them.

  40. Congratulations on your victory ( I agree the education/experience is what you paid for).

    I think the best part is that you didn’t add up all your time, multiply by $500 or $1000 per hour, and publicize that huge figure as your actual costs for defending SEO, as too many “marketers” would have considered doing.

    Now you start your political career… we need someone to start an SEM/SEO professional association we can trust and believe in. Up for the job?

  41. seriously, congratulations Rhea.
    I was working for ArteWorks when they entered into the fight, and I know that it cost them a healthy fortune as well. It is remarkable that you were able to stay the course! Yes, a great debt is owed, and I would not feel weird for a second about accepting donations :)

  42. Wow! Rhea! I’m sorry my head was under a rock during this experience. You definitely did the noble thing. THANK YOU! Naturally, Thunder SEO will donating to your fund. Thanks for saving our industry (smile).

  43. Like many others I thought this had already been resolved.

    It surprises me that a) we haven’t heard more about it since the initial flurry of alarm and b) that some of the bigger companies with deeper pockets and more of a stake didn’t step up initially – or that they dropped out at a later date.

    I not only went to PayPal an hour or so ago, but I’d also like to hope that you’ll never have to pay for a drink or a meal ever again at any future SEO conferences.

    • The year was too young for that statement, Matt! hehe I see comment a little spammy hahaha just kidding: D

      Seriously, congratulations/thanks!
      Have a fantastic company which sum … Mainly that.
      Sounds like a “”personal-growth” crap, but when you actually do what you like, you put all your effort: you have to go RIGHT!

      Thanks Rhea, keep it up.

  44. Congratulations Rhea! I really admire you for sticking it out and fighting the good fight on everyone’s behalf. You’ve done a great thing for all of us.

    SEOmoz will definitely be sending you a donation to help defray the cost of your legal fees! I really wish I could have been more supportive throughout, but I got waylaid by the RipOff Report lawsuit. :( Ugh.

    I’m so proud of you.

    Respectfully,
    Sarah

    • Mental note, When Sarah is not too busy get her hired :)

      I am kidding Sarah i am sure you have enough on your plate.

      BTW i have this little thing you could take care of.. kidding, no really i am kidding my true sentiment lies on Rheas post

  45. Rhea, amazing work. So many of us are frustrated with the activities of the USPTO, but don’t have the tenacity and willpower to actually stand up and fight for what’s right.

  46. This case is just one of many reasons why the SEO industry needs to formally adopt standards. They will eventually be imposed upon us because we are a multi-billion dollar industry. There are already “small laws” on the books that impact how we are to do business in our field. A few individuals have already gone to jail.

    The SEO industry needs to stop arguing that no one else should dictate to us what we can and cannot do and it needs to start discussing about what will be deemed generally acceptable practice and behavior.

  47. Congratulations Rhea!

    Standing up for what you believe is easy…or at least it is until it actually starts to cost you something.

    What you have achieved has demonstrated both your remarkable courage and strength of character. I am only sorry that you were left to shoulder this burden alone – I hope the SEO Community can come together to reimburse you appropriately for saving the industry’s collective backside.

    On the down side I guess I’ll have to shelve my trademark applications for ‘web design’, ‘blogging’ and ‘aeronautical engineering’ lest I incur your wrath.

  48. Amazing, amazing job, Rhea. I could have sworn I commented earlier but that may have just been my imagination. In any case, another comment to say thank you and good work. The community owes you a debt far greater than 17k.

  49. Super amazed that you tackled all of this alone Rhea. I find trying to get through all of my own stuff is hard sometimes, let alone try to take on something of this magnitude. You have my complete admiration and respect.

  50. I had no idea this had gone so far, but a huge thanks and congratulations to you. Just so you know, I’ll be going forward with the trademark application for Rhea fangirl (TM).

  51. I agree with Amanda wayyyyy above. I’m surprised the examining attorney would have let this go but you are dealing with 375 different subjective opinions. A subjective opinion that cost you roughly $17K.

  52. I’m not exactly sure what anyone was thinking trying to register seo as a trademark since it is used so much and there will be no way anyone could lay ownership to it without suing a few million people, and since there is so many that would mean your job will be more like a lawyer than a web dev.

  53. Thanks Rhea, Really. I knew Outspoken Media was special. I just didn’t know how amazingly special. You are truly inspirational. But, words mean so little when so much else has been spent. If I’m ever where you are, you’re lunch is on me ;) PS and thanks for the link to let us give back.

  54. Rhea, you rock!

    I really have no words to express what incredible work you’ve done for SEO Industry! I really appreciate your efforts and hardships you faced during such a long time.

    Thanks, Congrats & Cheers.

  55. Oh my goodness!! That guy was something else…

    Wow!! Rhea, I wanna be like you when I grow up! Your amazing, I love your resilience and your morals… Really, you rock!!

  56. Rhea, as a web designer and SEO, I’m immensely grateful for your efforts — as grateful, I’d say, as I am embarrassed that I did not step forward and stand shoulder to shoulder in the effort.

    I’m hoping my little contribution to the “Rhea fund” :) is of help.

  57. Hi Rhea

    Set this up properly

    Create a PDF of this blog post, maybe add a little more to it just to add a little value
    Sell it as a product through Paypal with some kind of delivery mechanism that delivers it automaticlaly. There are lots of scripts to do that

    In this way Paypal won’t block your account due to unusual transactions that you can’t show you have delivered a product – I am going through this problem at the moment.
    The people “donating” can claim it as a legitimate business expense as they have something of value to show for it.

  58. Like I said before, I had no idea that our SMX panel had a Superhero on it…

    The dedication and determination that took was otherworldly. I know you’re not asking for money, but you also didn’t ask to drop almost $20,000 on an industry and moral point, so I’m ponying up cash too. I don’t care if it’s tax deductible or not – you deserve to incur less financial responsibility.

    Every single person in the SEO community will benefit from your work and commitment, so it would only be fair if everyone (or at least most of us!) kicked in some cash to take care of your expenses.

    Thanks Rhea! Thanks thanks thanks!

  59. Rhea,

    So you really are a super hero hu? Here I thought the costume was for laughs. You are an incredible person to know. Thank you for speaking up and fighting Rhea.

  60. When all that first happened, I was very interested in being part of the opposition. But when SEOMoz jumped in, I figured it was handled. After all, the term SEO is actually part of their brand, so I figured they’d battle it to the end. I’m a bit surprised that the fact that they bailed wasn’t really mentioned in public. If it had been, I think you would have gotten plenty of financial support upfront. So the next time you decide to be a solo superhero, let us know so we can kick in the cash you need. :)

  61. Congrats Rhea!
    Talking about something is very easy but what you did is very cool!

    The only thing I’m so surprised, you’ve been left alone when you were struggling with these guys, although there are lots of big companies who work in SEO biz and lots of big! men.

    Anyway thanks again, and please support Rhea by paypal at rhea_drysdale[at]yahoo[dot]com

  62. What if you set up a payment that goes directly to the attorney? Wouldn’t that money taxable just as if you had payed him directly.

    Just so the attorney is paid only for his services what about setting up a meter that shows the amount of funds payed to the attorney through this particular program.

    Of course you deserve to be rewarded for your efforts. I just hate to see you be taxed on the money, then the attorney paying tax again on the same money.

  63. I don’t understand how things got this far and required so much effort CONSIDERING Aaron Wall could not trademark “SEO Book”, and he had no opposition on that.

  64. Congratulations on all of the hard work. Sometimes we don’t realize how much of an impact we will make when we’re knee-deep into these things, but Rhea, you certainly deserve all of the recognition. Thanks for making all of our lives a lot easier.

  65. It’s all been said…you’re awesomely and admirably stubborn. Everyone who has devoted their careers to this industry and depends on it for their livelihood is forever in your debt. You stepped in front of a bus and were willing to take on a fight that many others just ignored or ultimately bowed out of (yeah…I’m looking at you, SEOmoz).

    You showed your true character. Your fight was based on principle and you’ve proven your principles are more important than money. That’s more than most people can say. And in the end, you were the victor. Kudos. And THANK YOU!

    Remember people…NEVER kick a Ginger. :)

    • Let’s be a bit nicer with Team SEOmoz. This was a long, expensive fight that may or may not have been worth it. SEOmoz had other obligations, which frankly I think out-weigh these in terms of the Goliath. I wish them luck in their ROR fight, that’s an industry win as much as this if they can beat the appeals process. Their Gambert has deeper pockets and experience. Thank you though for the rest of the support and passion! :)

      • I’d expect nothing less than for you to defend SEOmoz. :) What’s important here is that you could have bowed out, saved yourself $17,000 and focused on the world known as Outspoken Media. Last I checked, Outspoken doesn’t have a “legal department” or an attorney on staff. The Moz does and they opted not to pursue it. You did. And that says more about you than it does anything else.

        I agree that SEOmoz’s fight against ROR is monumental and would not only be a win for our industry, but for businesses around the country who suffer the consequences of having inaccurate defamatory information posted there. Kudos to them for taking up a fight against that pimple on the ass of the Internet.

        My intent wasn’t to discount that, but to highlight how easy it would have been for you to gather up your toys and say, “Screw you guys…I’m goin’ home.” You didn’t. And you deserve credit for that. :)

  66. Rhea,

    chapeau bas!!!!
    Ur words, ur stubborness and ur success …. This industry will never forget what you did!
    Congrats!

  67. Well done girl you did a great job. The SEO world will remember you always. The donation is your right and you don’t need to feel shame about it.

  68. Congrats from Romania! :)

    That’s a realy realy great job!

    You all realize that if SEO was on Gambert Trademark many of u was out of jobs? :)

    Thank You Rhea!

    • Quixotic: “Possessing or acting with the desire to do noble and romantic deeds, without thought of realism and practicality.” I can handle that in this case. I thought more people would question my sanity, thanks for doing so in literary style. ;)

  69. Decided to write a post about this post letting others know. From me personally at least, thank you for your courage and your fight to save our industry and it’s rights.

  70. Hey, thanks Rhea. I am glad there are people like you in the SEO industry as well. Ahh…and am glad, we can still call it “SEO” industry, thanks to you :).

  71. Rhea,

    Fascinating post, very similar in some ways to my own romp through Federal court. After a large American company plaigarized some of the most popular content on my website and the ensuing duplicate content penalty from Google cost me over 500 visitors a day, I took them to Federal Court for copyright infringement. As common as Internet infringements are, very few people pursue them because of the costs involved.

    It took over two years to litigate, and although my attorney was willing to work on contingent fee because he found the case interesting (collecting a settlement was always a long shot), he warned me that I could find myself about $30,000 in the hole if the court decided against us – his estimate of their legal costs I believe.

    By the time it was all over, I had almost lost sight of why I’d ever started. Google had fixed their duplicate content issue, the infringing company was on the verge of bankruptcy (though their parent corporation was worth billions), and the process basically robbed me of the willingness to try anything new while it was ongoing.

    I ended up computing the taxes on my end of the settlement, paying them, and giving the rest away, which I’d intended all along. Since the case never went to trial (a tiny percentage do), I’m not sure it even helps others as precident.

    That’s civil law for you:-)

    Morris

  72. What you did was nothing short of brilliant, especially given the time and financial commitment. I hope your hard work and expenses come back to you a hundredfold – what you’ve done to protect the SEO industry is amazing.

  73. Digital Media Minute Topic of the day. Congratulations, I’m very impressed and I sincerely admire your efforts. Way to stick with it Rhea.
    I’m wondering if this actually constitutes a legal precedent so that it will be harder in the future to trademark the term SEO?

  74. As a co-owner of a young business in this field, all I can say is that we are so grateful you stuck it out, Rhea. Hopefully we will be able to thank you in person at SES next week and buy you a delicious adult beverage as a small token of our appreciation. If not, we’ll find another way…

  75. I just wanted to point out that God works in mysterious ways. Darkness may last for a night but joy comes in the morning! I’m really not trying to be religious here but it’s fitting to note the rewards that come from doing the right thing. I am sure that you had no idea the blog coverage you would get for your actions in this seemingly obscure case but whoohooo! Congratulation on your victory for all of us. I am glad that there are people like you still in the world. I hope it motivates others to do the same thing if ever called upon. Thank You

  76. Great post Rhea and I am glad you won. I am new to SEO and would not want anyone to take it away. You have done a great service for many. You are a force!

    Take Care

  77. Well done Rhea, what an investment in time and money . Incredible one person can accomplish this (and is willing to do so) .
    Content is King , but your officialy the SEO-Queen now !!!!

  78. Thank you so very much Rhea.

    I hope many more people learn of what you accomplished. Yes, to help with your expenses, but also to know that the ‘Good-Guys (& Gals)’ can win and are willing to take on the fight no matter the cost.

    Thank you from me and all future online Marketers that would have been affected by the outcome – had you not taken up the fight.

    Sincerely,
    Steve D.

  79. Winston Churchill said… If you’re going through hell.. keep going

    Rhea, It sounds to me like you can teach a lot of people about persistence & hard work. Congratulations, well done and thanks

  80. NOW THATS WHAT I CALL A PUBLICITY STUNT!!
    Why didnt I think of that? I shall now sit and make a list of all the terms I can copy write to generate masses of publicity for myself.

  81. Just wanted to say that you rock. Your selfless efforts have already paid off for our industry. Anyone who calls themselves an SEO owes you a debt of gratitude.
    Maybe they could also help to pay off your legal fees too. ;)

  82. Well, this is strange, I have NO idea what SEO is, what you do, what your co-workers do, but, I do know that your efforts should be rewarded with more then just words.

    I’m now a Disabled Citizen, but I was an IT Geek before my disability got the better of me, and I’m willing to help Rhea recoup some of her Money. I can’t do anything about the time and heartache, but that is ALL a person should have to endure in an unjust fight.

    For all you young IT Geeks out there, here’s a chance to do something, not just for the industry, but for someone that really deserves it. I challenge you to give, whatever you can.

    One day I might even know what SEO is and why I should care :)

  83. No doubt you hear this a lot, but as the owner of Market Appeal, a small SEO company, I’m one of thousands who are relieved that your fight against this nonsense has prevailed. :-)

  84. Wow – I am impressed with your stubbornness and determination. I will make a mental note to never be on the wrong side of an issue with you. Maybe all the SEOs that were saved by this can googlebomb Gambert for the term “world’s biggest loser”.

  85. Thanks Rhea for sticking with it till the end, you never know how it could have turned out for the industry as a whole had he been successful. We’ve contibuted via Paypal.

  86. Thank you, Rhea, for all the hard work and your dedication to the subject matter. You should not feel uncomfortable accepting donations, we all owe it to you. Keep up your brilliant work!

  87. Rhea you are my new hero!

    A recent job has gotten me full on into the SEO world and I just came across this on Matt Cutts’ blog. Being a sometimes unreasonably stubborn person myself I applaud your tenacity in fighting this. Thank you so much.

    I’m also really curious about the beach access lawsuit you mentioned. Being a kiteboarder this is an area of major concern of mine.

    Cheers,
    Kyle

  88. Rhea,

    I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the headache, heartache, and hassle that you put yourself through to fight this fight, I’ve been watching ever since I say Sarah Bird mention it and I have to say I’m so pleased that you stuck it out and won!

    I don’t know how I would have been able to keep my fledgling company out here in Michigan going if I would have had to pay protection money to some two-bit hoodlum.

    Because of your honor and integrity I will be able to continue to grow, learn, and pursue the American dream.

    Thank you,
    Matt Montgomery

  89. Congrats Rhea!

    Thank you, the coming years will show how much of what you did or sacrificed for is worth! You will be someone we will look up to & use your case as a model for future sessions in IP rights cases.

    Go would even go to the extent of comparing you with “Erin Brockovich”.

    Also please let me know if there is a way by which people could contribute through other currency.

    Thank you,
    Karthik

  90. Great effort for SEO community. Many have opposed in their blogs and websites. But just one spent her money and time to fight for the SEO community and gave word SEO back to the community. Congratulations.

  91. Rhea , hats off to both your tenacity in pursuing this till the end against all odds and your honesty in being so straight forward about the whole experience.

  92. Like many others, I remember when this all flared up, and ASSUMED (yes, that makes an ass out of me!) that it had been handled. If this, or something like this, ever comes up again, and it’s still going on, let the industry know — that’s what we’re here for, to help shoulder the burden. I have a feeling that within a few short years this will no longer be ranked by you as one of the major accomplishments in your career, as you’ll have climbed far higher mountains by then. All the best, Bill

  93. Thank you Rhea Drysdale!!!
    Great to see there’s still people out there that believe in standing by their principles, despite the personal costs involved, which I’m sure came to more than just $ and time.

  94. Describe the meaning of “Nonsensical” as used in your assessment of Gambert;-)

    What a knucklehead! Thanks for being the heroine. I rely on the SEO INDUSTRY (all caps, as it is an industry descriptor) to drive my business. Our SEO partner has been really helpful in navigating a sea of black-hat crap. As someone that deals with patent and trademark applications regularly, I can safely say that what you did was no small feat. Kudos!

  95. Well…I am glad you did it instead of me! But even if he had gotten the registration, any subsequent enforcement he attempted to prevent others from using the trademark in commerce would have been subject to the defense of “a descriptive term”. It’s like “escalator”–that was a company’s name once until the word became so popular that it couldn’t have trademark rights anymore. Bravo to you for this.

  96. Great read, this would have been one of the biggest mistakes in the history in seo thank god we have people who are watching.

  97. Just goes to show that the internet is still very much like the Wild West and occasionally we get some good Sheriffs in town..

    Keep up the great work!

  98. Thank you, Rhea, for all the hard work and your dedication to the subject matter. You should not feel uncomfortable accepting donations, we all owe it to you. Keep up your brilliant work!

  99. Thanks Rhea for sticking with it till the end, you never know how it could have turned out for the industry as a whole had he been successful.

  100. Here’s one to discuss – lets image he was successful.
    As of right now – the term SEO is a trade marked word – what happens next?

    What do you think Google’s response would be?

  101. Congrats on persevering until the very end. Your efforts are to be commended. Thanks for taking the initiative to do what was right. You have my respect for what you did. I have bookmarked this article to pass it on.

  102. You truly are a a hero in my eyes. This case could have had a tremendous impact on the business I’ve worked so hard to build as well as my family. The SEO community owes you a debt of gratitude. I commend you for your efforts and perseverance.

  103. Remember nixon and the missing tapes. Shows you can get away with anything if you have the right legal counsel and enough cash in the bank. I had wished for a better ending to this story but perhaps with enough contributions from the “little people it’s still possible.

    Francisco

  104. SEO is a dirty business here in South Africa, so I can imagine how bad it must be abroad. It’s difficult at times to stick the rules and apply integrity to SEO as there’s so many “fakes” out there who don’t understand the process and hop around stealing proper code, doing little if any benefit to their project and bringing the industry as a whole into the gutter. I do think it’s time that we all got together with one common goal in mind to regulate and accredit search engine optimization practices not through trademarks where one “wise guy” looks to further his own financial interests but rather as a community of recognised skill and experience, we are the custodians of our the world wide web and I think it’s time we seek to hold it in high regard!

    Duane Hamann
    [email protected]

  105. I don’t know how I ended up on this post, but it was a refreshing read. I work for a reputable seo agency as an SEO consultant and I am sick of people tarnishing the quite ‘infact’ industry, that is Search Engine Optimisation. A little while ago, a developer approached me about an SEO lead he had and got to provide a proposal. I sent a thorough and professional proposal with examples of my work. His reaction: “You’ve banished my stereotype of SEO guys and how they are cowboys!” I think this gives an indication of how many people out there have bad opinions of the SEO world. But having said that, it’s just like how you can get cowboy builders – every industry has dodgy people, right?

  106. Very noble of you Rhea- I wonder what their exact intentions were? Its a dangerous thing to get control of a trademark like that.

    Thank you

  107. I have to join the other people here and thank you for your efforts. I am shocked as well that it came out of pocket and you care about the issue that much to invest such a substantial amount of time and money. I think this is one of the reasons I love working in this industry so much though. It is one of the most tight knit work communities I know of and it seems to be that many of the people I’ve met in the industry actually care about their careers, the people they work with, and the overall progression of what we do.

  108. It is really strange that you could even go this far with the tm on seo word as it is so common phrase and a word like anything else. This is a remarkable story you have shared here and many thanks to your efforts.

  109. Congratulations on such a great job defending this, Rhea! This is inspiring. My friend and I are currently embroiled in a lawsuit against our former employer, who is trying to claim certain standard, everyday, common SEO techniques are “trade secrets.” They are trying to use litigation to force us to stop working in our professions, at risk that we might – in the future (potentially, possibly) – use these standard SEO techniques and breach their “trade secrets.”

    Trouble is – they are a corporation with corporate lawyers. We know the challenges you faced. Your fight – and triumph – is inspirational. We hope that we will overcome ours, and be able to proudly share our success.

    Thanks – Chris

    • Hi Chris, that’s troubling and I’d love to stay informed about the results. If you need any witnesses to discuss common SEO tactics, I’d wager most of the names in these comments and myself are willing/able. Keep us posted and best of luck!

  110. Trademarks are a tricky thing, any startup should think about registering the trademark from an early stage. Saves you a lot of time, effort and most important health :)
    Congrats on your win!

  111. Excellent story Rhea, I could see hollywood getting their hands on this sometime soon the way SEO is progressing forward so fast and starting to claim some major media attention like you created here! Just watched ‘The Social Network’ the other night.. reckon will be watching ‘The SEO Saviour’ soon! :D lol

  112. Thank you Rhea! I was reading Alan’s piece the other day about the ethics in whistle blowing and whatnot and this is another example of SEO’s taking a stance and declaring “I’m one of the good ones, I do not condone shady behavior”. The idea of copyrighting SEO and the trademark of the name and terminology effects all of us, so thank you for taking up this cause.

    Do we have an update, since this was posted, on your progress?

  113. I really love to see someone stick up for what they believe especially when it pertains to my industry. As Winston Churchill said “You have enemies? Good. That means you stuck up for someone, sometime in your life.”

  114. Great job Rhea!

    I too am for better education, and have seen several certifications and “standards” pop up recently, especially in paid search and analytics, but when it comes to standards for SEO, I think the industry is still relatively behind. This seems to be OK, because general reputations allow us to qualify companies and individuals, however it would be nice for consumers to be able to compare apples to apples with trusted standards – but securing “SEO” as a trademark is definitely not they way to do so..

    Keep up the great work!

  115. This whole ordeal brought about some very hard questions that the SEO community will have to answer eventually. I’m fairly new to the game, but I’m gracious to you for your selflessness.

  116. Powerful! Can’t imagine what the industry would be like if the trademark actually went through. I think there are many organizations/companies that are fundamentally broken due to similar situations. I admire your passion and determination to follow through!

  117. As a fellow SEO’er I would just like to thank you for thank you for your effort opposing such a ludicrous trademark filing. It sounds like you went through and learned a lot from it, and I’m glad that I found this post. It was super inspiring.

  118. Wow. I know I found this post a little late, but I’m surprised at how much determination you have. I checked the trademark page and followed your progress from 2007 to now. Thank you from the entire SEO community!

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