Comments: Wikipedia, "Lava Lamp", Trademark threats

If it's any consolation, there's been a lot of chatter internally about this whole incident, as well. There's two involved factors that seem to be rather under-reported: first, the OTRS volunteer who blanked the article is quite new, and has gotten a lot of good-natured ribbing over his handling of the incident; second, at the time this all happened, the Wikimedia Foundation was without a legal counsel (our last one retired recently), and so there was no obvious person "up the chain" to field legal complaints of this nature.

Although two weeks of the article about lava lamps is hardly a blip, in the long run, I do think some excellent points have been made, regarding Wikipedia's communications inadequacies, both by yourself and by a number of others I've read or discussed this with.

Anyhow, nice post, I'm glad Google Alerts noticed it. Cheers.

Posted by Luna Santin at July 10, 2007 02:34 AM

So what if the words 'Lava lamp' are trademarked?

All that means is that 1) they shouldn't be used to identify a product that isn't authorised by the trademark owner to be so identified, and 2) the trademark should be noted as a being a trademark.

This does not preclude an encyclopaedia having an article on 'Lava lamps', i.e. those products authorised to be named as such by the trademark owner.

I think 'mere morals' can see things clearly.

Posted by Crosbie Fitch at July 10, 2007 04:21 AM

I should add that such an article could still discuss and describe 'similar lamps' and even mention that similar lamps sometimes misrepresented themselves as Lava lamps.

And of course, if a trademark owner attempts to overreach their trademark and suppress discussion of their products (along with those of their competitors), well, let the gloves come off...

Posted by Crosbie Fitch at July 10, 2007 04:27 AM

I thought the "mere morals" typo was funny (Freudian slip?) even though someone else spotted it first :)

Posted by Bennett Haselton at July 10, 2007 06:47 AM

This relates to one of my biggest complaints about Wikipedia - the amount of policy discussion (and "consensus building") that occurs off the website and on various e-mail lists. I don't have the time to subscribe and sift through any more e-mail lists, and I think its disingenuous to expect editors to have to follow all these off-site discussions. Any policy debate or attempt at consensus must occur in public on the openly accessible website, not on a mailing list (or - good good - IRC) that someone has to subscribe to. Case in point: the whole WP:ATTRIBUTION kerfuffle (

Posted by Michael Zimmer at July 10, 2007 08:27 AM

Luna: Right, I don't fault the volunteer for taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach here. It's the aftermath, the maze of twisty little discussion pages, that strikes me as the bureaucratic problem.

Crosbie: Trademark lawyers can get very litigious. They're often trained that way.

Bennett: I think I'll leave the typo :-)

Michael: My impression is that much of key Wikipedia policy is in fact decided at private meetings. "Consensus" exists only to the extent that the power-brokers agree with it.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at July 10, 2007 01:36 PM

The crickets are still fond of you!

Posted by Jason Scott at July 12, 2007 04:58 AM