iVLG News Roundup Week 7 2014: Seattle Startups Invest and Expand; Bitcoin Regulation and Hacking; Seattle Business’ Trademarks and Parody
Seattle Startups Win Investment and Expand
Seattle based Frontdesk, a startup that makes business management and payment processing solutions for service based businesses, raised $4 million dollars in a Series A investment round that included venture capital firms Floodgate and Second Avenue Partners, as well as storied Seattle based entrepreneur Richard Barton. The company plans to use the money to expand.
Seattle based startup Tableau also announced expansion plans and are setting up more offices just down the street from ours in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. The maker of data visualization software is taking over a gym and there is no word yet whether they will leave the basketball and squash courts.
Bitcoin Faces Regulatory and Hacking Challenges
Bitcoin users faced an assault on two fronts this week with multiple regulators pursuing some control over the currency and with hackers stealing millions of dollars of bitcoin. Canada advanced regulation of Bitcoin and other digital currencies for money laundering purposes, and New York’s Department of Financial Services plans to issue a “BitLicense” for businesses that use the currency. The legislation is meant to protect Bitcoin consumers and prevent money laundering and other crimes. Major Bitcoin processors and users, including Mt. Gox and Silk Road 2, were victims of hacking. Silk Road 2, the site that emerged from the downfall of the black market site Silk Road, was taken by hackers for its entire Bitcoin wallet worth $2.7 million. The “bug” in the Bitcoin process that was exploited by the hackers is the same “transaction malleability” issue that also affected Mt. Gox, causing the payment processor to stop processing Bitcoin payments for several days.
Trademarks and Parody Under Fair Use Law?
An LA based comedian opened a coffee shop that looks very much like the stores nationwide that many of us instantly recognize as belonging to Starbucks.
The only meaningful difference between the actual Starbucks and Fielder’s store is that he put the words “dumb” in front of everything. The store advertised that they were protected under “fair use” law, arguing that the use of Starbucks actual logo and name is protected because the store is an art installation created as a parody. Starbucks responded smartly by saying that they would not allow the trademark infringement but not immediately turn to the court. Ultimately, Dumb Starbucks was shut down by the much less glamorous law that you can’t operate a food service establishment without a permit.
Another odd trademark battle that made the news this week came out of the UK, where Christopher North, the head of UK operations for Seattle-based Amazon, has found his face and name may be put on soap and cosmetics. The UK based company, Lush, has claimed a trademark on the name “Christopher North” after Amazon refused to stop practices Lush deemed misleading and in violation of trademark law. Lush apparently asked North 17 times to change Amazon’s practices before it filed suit against Amazon, which might explain why Lush described the products in the Christopher North line as “rich, thick, and full of it.”
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Seattle based multinationals should be flattered this week.
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