|Tue Feb 5 2013 21:41:10|
Etsy Listings Shut Down by Patent-holding Rival
By: Kenneth Corbin
When one seller began circulating word that a wide segment of up-cyclers on Etsy were violating her patent for a process of making kids' clothing out of adult garments, merchants who suddenly found themselves accused of intellectual property infringement reacted with considerable anger and confusion.
The patent holder contacted Etsy, which began removing listings around the middle of January.
The affected sellers complained to the patent holder, and Etsy's discussion forums lit up. Sellers wanted to know how a process that had been around for decades if not centuries could be covered under a patent. What were their legal options?
The patent holder claimed that her intellectual property described a distinctive technique of up-cycling that yielded unique efficiencies, and that it had been the subject of blatant and widespread copying, with tutorials readily accessible through a simple Google search. She initially asked for a small licensing fee, but eventually, apparently yielding to the pressure from the Etsy community, relented, and withdrew her claims of infringement, clearing the way for sellers to re-post their listings.
But it didn't end there. Some sellers remain worried that as long as the patent exists, they could once again find themselves the target of infringement allegations.
Their principal objection is that the patent in question is written in such a way that it could be broadly interpreted, and some have even suggested it amounts to a monopoly on the process of up-cycling. Small wonder, then, that a group of sellers has formed to explore their legal options to challenge the patent, including, potentially, the formation of a nonprofit group to raise funds to enlist an attorney.
We have the full story on the Etsy/up-cycling saga in Wednesday's Newsflash newsletter, including an assessment of what the sellers could look ahead to if they decide to pursue litigation against the patent holder.
We heard from several sellers for our report, but it remains unclear exactly how many received take-down notices from Etsy, and how many listings were affected. So with that, we invite you to share your experience in the comments section below!
About the Author
Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects since 2007, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here.