INTA Writes to PTO: Wikipedia And Similar Websites Should Not Be Citable
In a letter dated June 23, 2006 to Commissioner Lynne Beresford, the International Trademark Association (INTA) has recommended that the PTO revise its policy regarding the citability of Internet evidence. (letter here). In particular, INTA requests that the PTO "establish an unambiguous policy that would prohibit the use and citation of Wikipedia and similar sites by Examining Attorneys."
INTA notes that "anyone can alter the content of Wikipedia at any time, casting doubt on the validity of the information contained therein." Indeed, disclaimers at the Wikipedia website (here and here) "clearly bring into question the trustworthiness of its information." The Wikipedia content "appears to be electronic-only with no original or corresponding hard copy print version that would aid in corroboration of source, and no formal peer review of the submitted information takes place."
The INTA letter points out that the Court of Federal Claims (in a non-trademark case) recently sharply criticized Wikipedia as a source of evidence, finding that is was not "remotely" reliable in light of its "pervasive ... and disturbing series of disclaimers." Campbell v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 69 Fed. Cl. 775, 781 (Ct. Cl. 2006).
The letter concludes that:
"Uncorroborated information obtained from Wikipedia.com and similar collaborative sites that allow anyone freely to edit their content should not be permitted in the record or to form the basis, either in whole or in part, of a refusal to register."
INTA urges that "a new policy must be put in place, one that builds on the Office's existing policy concerning use of Internet evidence by Examining Attorneys, TMEP Section 710.01(b), but goes further by specifically addressing the use of downloaded evidence from sites that, by their own admission, contain unreliable information."
TTABlog comment: Note that my immediately previous posting (here) addresses the reliability of the Acronym Finder website.