Computer software heavyweight Oracle Corporation has begun using questionable trademark infringement claims and bully-boy tactics as it seeks to build a presence in the blockchain news market. The company has existed for 40+ years, but only added the word ‘blockchain’ to its trademark in April 2019, yet it has immediately started a campaign to eliminate competition in this niche. Earlier in 2019, online publication CryptoOracle received notification from Oracle Corp that they must cease using the word ‘oracle’ in their brand or face legal consequences on the basis of trademark infringement and a number of other questionable accusations. Now, the same letter has been sent to popular cryptocurrency and blockchain news website OracleTimes, and the demands amount to a systematic dismantling of the smaller company.
In the letter from Oracle Corporation’s legal team, there is reference to ORACLE MAGAZINE, an online publication covering “business analysis, research and information services” as well as “news reporting services”. The claim is that since the company owns the trademark ORACLE®, and has developed “tremendous goodwill” in that brand over its 40+ year history, they have the right to prohibit any other company using the word ‘oracle’ on grounds that customers may be confused and think the other company is affiliated or associated with Oracle Corporation.
In terms of the case against OracleTimes, the accusation is that since the word ‘times’ is a common suffix for news publications, the dominant element of the name is ‘Oracle’, and this amounts to dilution of the corporation’s brand and something akin to ‘piggybacking’ on their success and reputation. And, if you look at the situation without putting any context to it, you’d be forgiven for thinking they have a point. If the main word in the company name is ‘Oracle’, followed by a common news-related suffix, the reader may be inclined to think they are looking at a website that delivers news about Oracle Corporation. But this point of view is extremely myopic and, more importantly, does no harm to the Oracle Corporation brand in any way. Here’s why:
First of all, the word ‘oracle’ refers to an idea that has existed for millennia. In ancient mythology, and oracle is a being with incredible wisdom and authority, often associated with divine knowledge of the future. As an online publication for up-to-the-minute news relating to cryptocurrency and blockchain, OracleTimes exists to provide the authority and wisdom that those ancient oracles were revered for. By having a finger on the pulse of every new development in the niche, OracleTimes answers every question a visitor may have about the state of the market and the progress of the technologies and can make informed, accurate predictions about things that will happen in the future. In this sense, the use of the word ‘oracle’ in the company name is intrinsically linked with the traditional definition of the word, with absolutely no intention of feeding off the reputation of an established multinational corporation.
But though this definition of the word is pertinent to its use in the brand name ‘OracleTimes’, the connection is even more industry-specific. ‘Oracles’ are an important part of how blockchain technology – the very thing that OracleTimes is all about – functions. They are one of the key innovations and are as legendary to blockchain users as the ancient oracles were to the people who went to them for answers.
In principle, they are the same: in the ancient stories, people lacked the important information they needed to make decisions and turned to their oracles for access to knowledge that was beyond their ability to understand. Similarly, blockchains are unable to access information from outside the chain – information that they need to validate the conditions upon which smart contract are based. Simply put, an oracle is something that enables blockchains to access critical information from outside platforms that they would otherwise have no access to. Oracles are an integral part of blockchain technology, and their function is similar to the role the ancient mythological oracles played for people.
With that in mind, the use of the word ‘oracle’ in OracleTimes is entirely justified and completely unrelated to Oracle Corporation in any way. The multinational corporation owns its space, and has worked hard to establish its reputation under that brand and trademark over decades – that is not up for debate. But to claim ownership over a word that is associated with so many different things, and a concept that has existed for thousands of years is a highly questionable position to take.
Another issue that arises from the letter sent by Oracle Corporation is its claim that OracleTimes offers “identical or highly similar services to those covered by Oracle’s marks”. OracleTimes has existed since 2016, and in less than 4 years it has grown to become one of the prominent names in cryptocurrency and blockchain news/information. Oracle Corporation only incorporated blockchain into its trademark in April 2019 and has published very little about it on the ORACLE MAGAZINE publication. This is because ORACLE MAGAZINE reports on the full range of software services offered by Oracle Corporation, mainly covering their own software and offering information and guides about that.
Conversely, OracleTimes does not create any technology in its own right and is focused entirely on the cryptocurrency and blockchain news niche. This has been the sole focus throughout the 3+ year history of the publication, and every element of the website involves some reference to a component of cryptocurrencies and blockchains. You will not find a single piece of information on the website that isn’t related to this specific niche, which is vastly different to what you see when you look at ORACLE MAGAZINE.
The differences don’t stop there, however. When you look at the URLs of the publications, Oracle Corporation makes it very clear who owns theirs since it is an extension of the oracle.com website. OracleTimes has its own URL that in no way suggests it is a part of the corporation. Indeed, a simple Google search for ‘Oracle Magazine’ yields various other publications that use that word, covering various industries and niches. When you visit the OracleTimes website, it has its own highly distinctive branding that doesn’t resemble that of Oracle Corporation. The logos are not similar, the colour schemes are different, and the structures of the websites are very distinct from one another.
In short, there is no way that a visitor could believe they are viewing something related to Oracle corporation when they visit oracletimes.com. At worst, they might see the name and click on it, believing they are visiting something connected to Oracle Corporation, then immediately realise the two aren’t related when they see the website. This does no damage to the business of Oracle Corporation, and certainly doesn’t dilute their brand in any way. Nor does it help the business of OracleTimes, whose content is very niche and completely unrelated to the work done by the good people at Oracle Corporation.
The Head of Publishing at OracleTimes commented on the issue, stating that “Oracle Corp is claiming that the word belongs to them” and that “despite us operating years in publishing blockchain news they give us a deadline of 15 days to cease our entire business”. He feels that the worst part of it is that it threatens to put “our writers and employees out of business”. His statement includes a confirmation that OracleTimes intend to “fight CMS Cameron McKenna and Oracle Corporation, Oracle Times hopes come to an arrangement.” The aim is for the two companies to continue to coexist “without the destruction of a trustworthy news source in the blockchain community”.
It is clear that there is a defiant mood at OracleTimes, where a company will be fighting for its existence against a corporation that is exploiting its status to eliminate competition. The mood has been similar over at CryptoOracle, where the legal battle has escalated into an attempt by Oracle Corp to sue for a number of trademark-related infractions. The defence relating to the existence of oracles in real-life examples of blockchain projects could prove problematic for Oracle Corp in its attempts to eliminate these smaller companies from the competitive space. There has even been an anecdotal suggestion that by entering the blockchain space, they should not be allowed to operate under the name ‘Oracle’ since that name already exists in blockchain structures.
Of course, history is full of stories of huge multinational corporations and conglomerates eliminating smaller competitors. In 2012, large telecom companies like Time Warner Cable and AT&T took part in a large-scale lobbying campaign to block communities from building their own cheaper networks, as this would have forced them to lower their own prices and become more innovative to stay competitive. Similarly, Wal-Mart and Costco have consistently supported higher minimum wages to put smaller shops, who can’t afford to pay their staff at those higher rates, out of business. The legal teams that represent these corporations find ways to make it appear that the big, powerful organisation is in the right, but the reality is that they are simply wiping out their competition and monopolising the markets.
These types of actions by large corporations are happening all the time in virtually every country in the world, and they are the dominant forces that hide behind the illusion of a free market. The good news is that the smaller companies can sometimes win, making a dent in the ever-increasing stranglehold a few big names have on their respective markets. Oracle Corporation is not a blockchain news publication – publishing articles that relate to blockchain is just a minor part of the work they do. They have allowed Oracletimes to continue trading without any trouble for nearly 4 years, so why are they now deciding to take this legal action against them? The answer is simple: because now, they have decided that they want to make blockchain a bigger part of what they do, and they want minimal competition as they enter the space.
The legal challenges have all come about in the time since blockchain became a part of their trademark in April 2019. And they have come thick and fast. It is to the credit of these smaller organisations that they are standing their ground and fighting back. If Oracle Corp is successful in eliminating any of these publications on the grounds of trademark infringement, it sets a very worrying precedent for the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. With oracles being such an integral part of the technology, and so many companies using that name in their branding, if the courts rule in favour of Oracle Corp then the entire industry could suffer.
Rest assured there will be a significant defence against the allegations, and the progress of the disputes will be worth following. There is a history of companies trying and failing to claim ownership of commonly-used words, so this is certainly a battle worth fighting for OracleTimes, CryptoOracle and any other company that Oracle Corp attempts to eliminate in this way. The world of cryptocurrencies has been met with hostility from a number of authorities and organisations; it’s not something the establishment wants to succeed, despite the fact that the blockchain technology behind it is being so widely adopted. This could be viewed as another battle to protect the freedom and legitimacy of the cryptocurrency world, so keep an eye on events as they unfold.
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OracleTimes is a website publication that broadcasts cryptocurrency and blockchain news in real-time. It brings analytical commentary to major events in the economical and political landscape regarding financial markets, exchange rates and stock exchange quotations. They are a Google News Approved website specialising in the latest cryptocurrency and blockchain news.
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