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Name Change

You may wonder why I changed my professional practice name from "intellact" to "Intallact".  It turns out that I was just one of the many small companies around the world who received a letter from lawyers representing Intel Corporation, informing us that they considered the use of the letters "I-N-T-E-L" in the name of our professional practice to be an infringement of Intel's trademark.  As was the case for most other recipients of this legal correspondence, the claim never made it to the courts - we did not have sufficient resources to take on such a corporate giant.

Intel is in fact known worldwide for the extraordinary lengths that they will go to to stop anyone from using business names, email addresses, or anything that include words or letters that they feel they own the rights to.  One particular example of this that received notable press coverage at the time was the instance of a charitable group doing work in prisons called "Yoga Inside".  Read more...   Apparently, Intel feels that they hold the exclusive rights to any and every two word phrase where the second word is "Inside".  Astounding.  (This litigious obsession from a company which actually attempted to trademark the letter "i" - an application they will likely renew until they get it.)

However, as you will quickly see from the case histories below, "might is right", and an entrepreneur who unwittingly uses such a phrase, unaware of this claim, invariably gets squashed.  I was compelled to undertake considerable internet research when faced with threats from the giant chip-maker, and I decided to create this page as a resource to others who might be in similar circumstances.  Perhaps others will learn from our mistakes and experience.  It might also be eye-opening to read about how trademark infringements are now litigated in the United States and around the world.  The links below point to a wide variety of internet pages on this subject.

Needless to say, all of my computers now run AMD processor chips.  I don't expect to have any noticeable effect directly on Intel's sales by enthusiastically supporting their competitors, but I do feel that it is important to take a stand against the bullying behaviour of a megopoly which, according to the evidence from around the world, consistently crosses the line in terms of what is realistically necessary to protect trademarks.  Since their valuable 'goodwill' was one of the things that I was supposedly infringing upon, I thought I would share some examples of what that 'goodwill' really looks like out in the real world.  It appears that Intel's infamous internet nickname - Chipzilla - is well-deserved.

bullet Links to some other Intel trademark litigation cases
bullet Notes from my own experience
bullet Links to related Intel trademark litigation topics

Specific Cases

Major links point to information about the trademark dispute, not the company in question.  The links go to press articles, actual letters to/from Intel, legal filings, and court dockets, depending on what I could find.  (Note that since only a small percentage of the alleged infringements actually make it to the courts, there are obviously many more cases than those listed below.)
AMERICAS NEWS INTEL PUBLISHING - Target: Newsletter company.  See also.
ART INSIDE - Target: 17-member artist co-operative in tiny Shelburne Falls, Mass.
AUTOINTEL (GAAH INC.) - Target: Vehicle sales and leasing company.
EXPRESS SCRIPTS - Target: Healthcare consulting company.
FIRST INTEL MORTGAGE - Target: Small Mortgage company.
FOTOINSIDE - Target: Photo processing service.  See also.
INSIDER INTEL - Target: Investment advisory practice.
INTELAGENT - Target: Real estate agent.
INTELAGENTS LLC - Target: Detective and armored car agency?  See also.
INTELLACT (BRITISH TELECOM) - Contested trademark application.  See full decision.
INTELLACTION - Target: Small consulting practice.  Name was changed to Intelliaction.
INTELCARD SYSTEMS - Target: Smart card dealer.
INTELCOM - Target: Telecom company.
INTELCROSS - Target: Russian company.
INTELCUBE - Target: Point-of-sale device retailer company.
INTEL EXPRESS CARGO - Target: Logistics and shipping company.
INTEL JEANS - Target: Clothing maker.  See also.
INTELLAPEX PLLC - Target: Law firm.
INTELL DETECTION SYSTEMS - Target: Alarm systems firm.  See also.
INTELLECTRIC - Target: One-man electrical contractor.
INTELL ENTERTAINMENT - Target: One-man disk jockey.  See also.
INTELLHOST.COM - Target: Web hosting company.  See follow up letter and another letter.
INTELLIFE TRAVEL - Target: Two-person travel agency.
INTELLIMAGE - Target: Graphic design firm.
INTELLINITIATIVE - Target: Board game company.
INTEL-LOGISTICS - Target: Trucking company.
INTELL-MAX LLC - Target: Small educational software devloper.
INTELL MEDICAL SERVICES - Target: Home healthcare provider?
INTELL NORTH INVESTIGATIONS - Target: Private investigator?
INTELMARK - Target: Telemarketing firm.  See also.
INTELNET (INTELGATE.COM) - Target: Networks and fingerprint verification firm.
INTELNETWORKS - Target: Private investigation firm.
INTELSAT - Target: International telecommunications satellite company.
INTEL SECRETS - Target: Blogger web site.  Includes fascinating background material.
INTELTECH ENTERPRISES - Target: Machinery condition diagnostics company.
LATININTEL - Target: Mexican news outlet.
MAP INSIDE - Target: Mapmaker printing this on their envelopes.
PROINTELL - Target: One-man computer services practice.  See letter here and follow up letter
SELINTEL - Target: Small web hosting and network services company.
SOVINTEL - Target: Russian Telecom.
YOGA INSIDE - Target: Charity working with prison populations.

My Experience

It turns out that my experience was quite typical of many Intel trademark complaints.  In order to have relatively unique internet presence for myself, I had long ago created a 'moniker' - a made-up name that would be easy to find using search engines.  I decided on a wordplay on a common English word that began with I-N-T-E-L.  In my case, I wanted to combined "intelligence" with "action" to get a variation on "intellect" - that being "intellact".  I often used intellact as a user name, and as a unique (and more private) identifier for accounts, internet forums, etc. - this is a common approach, used worldwide.

When I later opened up my own consulting practice, the name was a good fit, and I decided to carry my new word over into my business. You can see from the list above that creating a business name that incorporates the letters "I-N-T-E-L" is quite common, especially among small businesses trying to create a memorable and descriptive name for themselves, not because of any association with silicon chips, but because of the obvious association with the prefix in the English language.  When I registered the name and the web site, the alleged association with Intel Corporation never occured to me.  Furthermore, at that time, any IT business was in my past, and I was focussed on experiential education and facilitation - hardly work to be confused with a chip maker.

Unfortunately, I was just another of the tiny, naive players that Intel particularly targets.

It took me a long time (as my graphic designer will attest) to come up with a logo for my practice.  In the mean time, I threw together a temporary one with WordArt.  That turned out to be a mistake, since the temporary logo (on the left) inadvertently highlighted the "intel" part of my name:
Temporary logo:  old intellact logo         Proper logo:  

By the time I had selected and approved my new logo (on the right), it was too late - the Intel lawyers were already complaining about the old one (somewhat legitimately, I have to confess).

It should come as no surprise that Intel Corporation retains a number of legal firms full-time, just to handle its trademark litigation.  It is also no surprise that they are represented in Canada by Gowlings - one of the top intellectual property legal firms in the country.  (Indeed, I recommend their portal as a fabulous resource for information on Canadian domain and trademark law.)

Their initial complaint was received by courier on New Year's Eve, 2008/09.  A week later, they sent their specific demands.  This is what they asked me to sign and return to them:

I, Andrew Welch, on behalf of myself and Intellact, its successors and assigns, agree to:

  • permanently cease all use of Intellact in any manner whatsoever including as part of a product name, trade name, corporate name, trade-mark, domain name, URL, e-mail address, or otherwise by March 6, 2009;

  • permanently remove all content from and links to and any other owned or controlled websites incorporating "intel" by March 6, 2009 and not transfer, sell or convey in any other manner, any such domain names;

  • allow the domain name registration for, and any other owned or controlled domain names incorporating "intel" to expire in due course;

  • not to adopt, use, apply to register, or register, anywhere in the world, any name, mark, domain name or e-mail address containing the letter string "INTEL" or "INTELL" as a standalone term or embedded within another term, or any other mark confusingly similar to INTEL;

  • The Real Story
    Within a few days, the Gowlings lawyer gave quite a different story over the phone.  In fact, changing my practice name to INTELLIACT would have been acceptable to them - a suggestion that ran contrary to three of their four original demands!  Huh?  Further conversation made it clear that this was not an issue of spelling, but one of sound!  When discussing allowable alternatives, the acceptable names could include "INTEL" but could not sound like the Intel name.  Even though the contested medium was the internet - a silent forum - somehow if their pronunciation of my name did not have what they had determined to be the 'Intel sound', then suddenly the 'confusion' that they attributed to the average consumer would be gone.  INTELLACT was objectionable; INTELLIACT was not.  I had a great deal of trouble making any sense of this.

    We also discussed reversing the "E" and registering the name and web site as "INT3LLACT", etc.  It seemed to me that this would resolve all possibilities of internet search engine confusion, for example.  However the problem that they had with this was still how my name would be pronounced, where the emphasis would be, etc.  It seems that Intel is paying these lawyers huge sums of money to protect the consulting practice of a corporate facilitator from being aurally confused with the chip maker at dinner parties and chats at the water cooler.  No wonder their processors are so expensive.

    A Full Year of Learning
    Thanks to the celebrated George W. Bush (before he was finally thrown out), U.S. trademark law was widened in favour of megopolies, expanding the interpretation of "trademark dilution".  This is where I can be sued by Burger King if I put out a large version of my farm tractors and call the model the "Whopper" - a totally different industry which easily passes the any-idiot-could-see-right-away-that-they-are-not-the-same-company test.  However such practices are deemed to 'dilute' the trademark.  (Note that if you register a ".COM" domain, no matter where you are in the world, it is U.S. law that is applied.)

    Canadian and European law is quite different.  Unfortunately, my IT background had come back to haunt me with scattered projects (causing an arguable industry overlap), and my legal war chest is non-existent.  I ultimately decided to rename all of my business practices to "INTALLACT", returned the temporary logo with a vowel switch, and removed all commercial content from anything I controlled that used the "INTELLACT" name.  I also re-branded any software packages that were still floating about in cyberspace, and registered this new domain name ("WWW.INTALLACT.CA").

    Intel's original objections, as outlined in their first letter, and my final responses, are as follow:

    Your use of Intellact is likely to cause confusion in the marketplace as to the source of your business' products and services and/or suggest some affiliation or relationship to Intel that does not exist.

    "Likely"?  I disagree, however I ceased offering any business product or service under that name.  It is no longer in active use in the marketplace.

    Your use of Intellact depreciates the value of the famous Intel marks.

    Where as "Intelliact" would not?  The subjective nature of this perspective is also a moving target, since your suggested acceptable alternatives directly contradict earlier demands, making it extremely difficult to be in compliance, however I dropped my usage of the name in any business or commercial context.

    The only real difference between Intellact and Intel is the addition of the non-distinctive "act" suffix.  Accordingly, the dominant and only distinctive element of Intellact is our client's famous Intel mark.

    This is nonsense.  Not only is there a double-L in Intellact, but I fail to see how "act" or "lact" is any less distinctive than "intel", or how "iact" is more distinctive.

    The fact that your business emphasizes the "Intel" portion of Intellact in its logo through its choice of font and colour further increases the likelihood of confusion.

    A valid objection, as I noted earlier.  I have ceased all usage of that logo (with the single exception of the historical reference shown above ;-).

    How I Resolved the Dispute - and KEPT my Web Site

    As noted above, not having the resources to take on the enormously deep pockets and voracious appetite for litigation demonstrated by the chip maker, I decided to rename my consulting practice and change any commercial use of my moniker to "Intallact".  While this was acceptable to the lawyers, they continued to demand that I take down my web site, deleting all of its associated email addresses, and cease all use of the name in any manner anywhere.  This would have caused me very significant inconvenience, having to change many email addresses for that domain (I often assign aliases by recipient), rename internet accounts, redirect web links, etc.  For a year the correspondence went back and forth, and the stress continued.

    In the end, I was able to successfully argue that I could not be committing trademark infringement if I was not using "Intellact" as a trademark.  Where there is no trade, there is no trademark.  I am sure that the lawyers are not happy about this, but they have apparently accepted this argument, and have come as close as they ever will to saying so in writing:

    Our client will not pursue this matter further provided that you refrain from using INTELLACT as a trade-mark on any other mark Intel deems in its discretion to continue an infringement or dilution of its famous INTEL mark.  This includes use of the INTELLACT mark for any commercial purpose.  With respect to the domain, our client will not object to the redirecting or use of this domain name provided that it is not used for commercial puposes.
    Despite the many instances of large and small companies and web sites being crushed under the onslaught of the Intel legal machine, my personal web site remains.  And, unlike others I have spoken to that suffered similar attacks and settled out of court, I will never agree to sign gag orders that would prevent me from publicly sharing my unfortunate experience with others.

    Related Topics

    Intel Lawyers Again Go Too Far In Trademark Bullying.
    Intel Claims Rights to "Intelligent" Trademarks.
    Intel's trademark List.
    How to kill a trademark: crush the holder.
    Comment on Intel trademark confusion and follow up article.
    European Union ruling on Intel trademarkSee also.
    Intel steals logo.
    Intel and AMD legal battles.
    Email user name trademark.
    Attempt to trademark "386".
    Company wants to use the word "Inside".
    Trademark blog discusses dilution - lots of examples.

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