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Priceline orders Smashwords to cease and desist

Apparently, Mark Coker, founder of e-book distributor Smashwords.com set up a site that caught the attention of Priceline, a Shatner-enabled vendor of travel services with which you may be familiar and less inclined to like after hearing the following. Priceline wants Coker to shut down his new site, called “name-your-own-price-ebooks.com,” because it violates the company’s trademarked slogan. Mark blogs extensively about the letter, including printing the letter’s text, at the Smashwords blog.

The greatest irony, I think, is that the law firm’s url is “DRM.com.” It is an acronym of partner names, but represents what the company and its clients spend their time doing. Alas, Mark should drop the url rather than get himself into a suit. What he should ask, however, is that Priceline agree never to enter the e-book market in return for the concession on his part. After all, he got the URL first, and if Priceline wants him to respect their trademarked slogan, which is only a fragment of the name of his site, he should expect something in return. I had an investment in a company with a name that was spelled similarly to a publicly traded company, both of which had been registered in different states within weeks of one another, that received a payment from the company asking them to stop using the homonymic URL after several years.

Mark just set up the site, having seen only nine visitors at the time he received the cease-and-desist letter. Nevertheless, he did invest in the design and functionality on the site and should use the occasion to ensure that Priceline stays out of e-books and will enter into no future litigation over similar concepts, such as “your price on e-books” or whatever. In the meantime, he should switch his new site to a variation on the phrase that will not raise the hackles of lawyers with nothing better to do that send letters like this over the weekend. And he should retain the existing site but place a redirect to the new URL on it for a period of one month.

If Mark wants a really cool tool for a patronage model in e-books, he should take a look at Songslide.com’s “pick your price” slider tool, which lets artists set a minimum price but be paid more by fans. I’m an investor there. Happy to make an introduction.

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