Does “Raiders Fancast” Infringe the “Fancaster” Trademark?
I don’t normally blog demand letters, but this particular matter would benefit from additional visibility.
Over 5 years ago, I blogged a lawsuit involving the Fancaster trademark, which I characterized as “the saddest trademark case of 2011.” Among other rulings, the court tossed Fancaster’s trademark infringement claim against Comcast for its now-defunct fancast.com service. Recently (in the last year or so), Fancaster contacted me to say that its settlement with Comcast wiped away the ruling as precedent, which made my blog post misleading. I figured savvy readers would recognize how ridiculous that is, so I added a disclosure. I thought it was silly to worry about such an old and lightly-trafficked blog post, but now I suspect Fancaster cared about that blog post because it may conflict with ongoing enforcement efforts.
This weekend, I learned that Fancaster has sent a demand letter to the operators of the “Raiders Fancast,” which describes itself as a “podcast by fans for fans.” Fancaster asserts that using the term “fancast” violates their trademark rights, so the podcasters should drop it and the associated domain name (implying that they’ll be sorry if they don’t walk away now). See the Fancaster demand letter dated March 24, 2017 (note: I blocked out the sender’s phone number, email and signature). Among other problems, the letter takes a strangely revisionist twist on the Comcast case, implying Fancaster got a good outcome despite a judge’s ruling I consider quite unflattering.
To me, it seems problematic that the sender believes that the “Fancaster” trademark restricts a hobbyist’s use of the word “fancast” for podcasting by fans, even though (a) I note a pending application for the term “fancast” (#87322736), and (b) more importantly, I (and probably others) consider “fancast” to be generic for podcasts or vlogging (see, e.g., the “Hugo Award for Best Fancast“). It makes me wonder how many other hobbyist podcasters or vloggers have gotten similar demand letters with an ownership claim over a possibly generic diminutive.