Linden Lab Releases Trademark Statement

Revised and updated April 2, 8:11 a.m. local:

Catherine Linden has published a fresh article on the official Linden blog concerning the trademark policy changes. Comments have closed on the article, but reading them will show you the predominant reaction to this “explanation.” I quote from it here:

1. Can I use the Second Life Eye-in-Hand logo in a press story?
Yes! If the story is about the Second Life world, you can use the logo in the body of the story. You can’t, however, use the logo to identify your blog — why? Because it looks like you’re a Second Life or Linden Lab vetted project. You can read more about this here.

2. Can I discuss the Second Life world on my website?
Of course! You can — and should — call our products and services by their names. For instance, it’s ok to say you’re “running a business in the Second Life world” or that you bought “Linden dollars through the LindeX exchange.” You can read more about that here.

3. Can I use SL with my product, domain or organization name?
Yes, under our special license to use “SL.” You can use “SL” with your own trademark. So, if you own the “Dell” trademark, you could call your presence in the Second Life world “Dell SL.”Or, you can use two common nouns with “SL.” For instance, SL Ballet is not ok (only one common noun) but SL Ballet Troup works. And SL China Portal is not ok (”China” is a proper noun), but SL Chinese Residents Association works. You need at least two common nouns so others don’t think you’re an “official” Second Life organization or website. Read more about this license.

4. What if I have a domain name that uses “SL” with only one common noun?
We’ve given you 90 days to transition to a new domain name that works with our special license. If you need additional time, please write us at and we’ll consider giving you permission to extend the 90 days or to forward the old domain name to your new one. For more on submitting a licensing request check out the FAQ.

5. I’ve got more questions, who can I ask?
We’ll be glad to help you. You can email us at with specific questions. Keep in mind there are MANY of you and only a few of us, so please be patient.

(More after the break.)

Unfortunately for Linden Lab, there are many questions, and they are substantially the same ones that bloggers have been asking since last week. At least to my reading, this sounds essentially like a rehash of what they have on the actual Brand Center page. What they are not addressing — either through misunderstanding or deliberate avoidance for any of several reasons — is the concern of hobbyist and casual bloggers that they will now be served with legal actions if they continue referring to Second Life as simply “Second Life.” The key worry here is that section 2, which insists that you place a noun or noun phrase following the term, making “Second Life” into an adjective, as well as needing to insert the ® and ™ after at least one instance of the term standing by itself in every post they’ve written. Besides the tedium and time that involves, people just don’t talk like that normally; and we’re people, whether flesh and blood or avatars. It isn’t natural speech.

The more material fear also exists that, after investing varying amounts of money buying domain names that have the letters “sl” in them somewhere to suggest Second Life, they will now be forced to change domains or shut down, losing all that investment on what was a pastime previously sanctioned by LL’s older trademark statements. Despite LL’s assertions that this is not their plan, suspicion still abounds that the Lab is trying to assert trademark authority in preparation for an initial public stock offering (IPO). Whether or not this is the case, they wish to prevent any chance of a site being construed as created by or supported by Linden Research. This, to my reading, is the more serious worry; and at least one site has already taken steps to create a new domain (as may have been noted by the owner in a comment to a previous article here on Around the Grid). The frustration is great, but does not appear to be acknowledged or understood by LL.

Bloggers are asking for a firm, unequivocal, specific explanation of what will be considered actionable by Linden Lab and what won’t. Right now, following many decisions by the company that feel arbitrary to Residents, many are feeling rather like the real life residents of St. Petersburg, Fla. back in the Nineties, when the city was trying to get a major-league baseball team for the St. Pete-Tampa Bay area. They had a nice domed stadium, lots of interest, all prepared, and there were enticing lures being dragged in front of them. Then the owners decided to send the team to a larger metropolitan location with a bigger television market. There had been posters around the Bay saying “Saluting Major League Baseball,” with a glove shaped into a thumbs-up sign. A new poster was quickly made up — this time, with a different finger raised, like unto a Bird in flight.


The whole trademark kerfluffle has the taste to it of something begun by lawyers; and, in a discussion on the Second Life Bloggers group line in world last night, I sighed and quoted Shakespeare’s famous line from Henry VI, Part 2 (IV, ii): “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” With apologies to the lawyer in the house, by the way; Kit Meredith was participating in the discussion. (She went strangely silent after that, and I hope I haven’t done a bad thing to tick off an in-world friend). The pity is that lawyers are people, too, engaged with defending the rights of their clients. It’s a well-paying job usually, but also a thankless one quite often from the population at large, who hate lawyers until they need one.

The greater pity is that, if you set two lawyers in a room with a piece of text that seems perfectly clear in intent to a layperson, the lawyers often have two entirely differing takes on it, and those are diametrically opposite to each other. Kit, for instance, worries that by agreeing to the new Terms of Service on logging in after the trademark policy was updated, we have bargained away our rights to legally refer to Second Life in the colloquial. Ben Duranske, though, in an interview with the Metaverse Messenger (see the new issue, bottom of page 3 and jump to p. 32; Acrobat Reader required), is more confident of bloggers’ rights. Which will have the right of it is unclear for the moment.

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