UPDATE: SEC spokesman John Heine sent me three emails in response to this article along with additional materials related to the SEC’s own trademark application. A US Patent and Trademark Office document (PDF 228 KB, 12 pages) forwarded to me by Heine says: “The Office records have been searched and there are no similar registered or pending marks that would bar registration under Trademark Act Section 2(d), 15 U.S.C. §1052(d). TMEP §704.02.”
So it seems that CaseWare doesn’t have a right to be upset. Interestingly, the SEC’s application was filed May 6, 2008, which suggests that the announcement about IDEA wasn’t rushed as I’ve suggested. I still think the timing was odd, but I don’t think it matters all that much. I will say this, though, never try to have fun at the SEC’s expense because they take these matters very seriously. I thought my post was rather fun, and the last thing I expected was a strong response from the SEC. So it goes with blogging and journalism — the stories that create a fuss are the ones you least expect.
Original post follows:
WHEN the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said last month that it was going to build a new interactive data repository to replace EDGAR, I suggested that the timing was odd and that even the logo didn’t seem finished.
You can see my original report about the SEC’s press and blogger conference to announce its new IDEA (Interactive Data Electronic Applications) database if you don’t recall what I said.
Now we have even more evidence that the announcement was, well, rushed. It appears there wasn’t time even to do what legal types typically like to do — dot the I’s and cross the T’s. Presumably, one of those checks would have been to see if the name IDEA, particularly in relation to interactive data or XBRL, was already taken.
Well, according to a CaseWare International Inc., a supplier of software to accountants and auditors and a member of the XBRL consortium, it has been using the IDEA name for over 20 years. It registered its IDEA trademark in the US in 2001. Its IDEA logo is shown above.
And as a statement on their website makes clear, the little company is none too pleased with the mighty SEC.
Here’s the complete statement:
Public Message Regarding Infringement of CaseWare’s “IDEA” Trade-mark Rights
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has announced that they will be replacing their EDGAR database with an XBRL enabled platform, an exciting development for users of financial data and for the XBRL world in general, in which CaseWare has played a part for over eight years.
Unfortunately, the SEC proposes to adopt as a trade-mark for its software a trade-mark which is exactly the same as the trade-mark used by CaseWare and its predecessors in title for over 20 years for its software, “IDEA”. Our IDEA trade-mark was registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2001. We are completely dumbfounded as to why someone at the SEC did not do even the most rudimentary trade-mark search before announcing such a major project, or even worse, did such a search then chose to ignore the results. As might be expected, use by the SEC of a trade-mark exactly the same as ours for software directed to the same community of users for overlapping functions has caused confusion in the marketplace with customers and prospects wondering if the SEC software is our software or vice versa. If you are aware of any confusion that has occurred in this regard, please let us know as we would like to clear it up.
Despite the daunting prospect of a relatively small company challenging the resources of the SEC, we are taking the necessary steps to defend our trade-mark and the considerable investment we have made in it.
CaseWare International Inc.
CaseWare IDEA Inc.
I also note that not only did the SEC staff not do a trade-mark search, but they probably didn’t Google the name either. When I search for “IDEA” on Google, the first result that comes up is “IDEA — CaseWare International.” You may get different results depending on your location.
Overall, though, I don’t see what the problem is. Any confusion that is caused isn’t likely to hurt CaseWare. It might even be beneficial, such as getting the small company some free publicity.
For what it’s worth, the SEC’s IDEA logo follows (I think CaseWare’s is much more polished, don’t you?):