In July 2008, Richard Minsky filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Linden Research and an avatar in Linden’s virtual world Second Life raising issues of virtual intellectual property rights.
Later that March, Minsky came across an art gallery in Second Life called "SLART Garden" operated by the avatar ‘Victor Vezina.’ With the help of a lawyer offering her services in Second Life, Minsky sent a cease and desist message to Vezina in the virtual world but received no response. Minsky then wrote to Linden’s general counsel in April to stop Vezina’s alleged unauthorized use of Minsky’s trademark. Linden not only refused to acknowledge Minsky’s trademark or remove the allegedly infringing material, they also wanted Minsky to abandon his trademark with the USPTO.
After many unsuccessful discussions with Linden, Minsky filed his complaint in July 2008 which alleged:
- Trademark infringement and dilution & contributory trademark infringement and dilution by Linden and Vezina (included as a John Doe defendant). Minsky alleged that Vezina’s SLART Garden infringed on his SLART trademark. The complaint states that by denying the validity of Minsky’s trademark, allowing Vezina to maintain SLART Garden, and refusing to identify Vezina so that Minsky could include him in the lawsuit, Linden contributed to trademark infringement.
- Tortious Interference by Linden when it hid Vezina and refused to take down infringing materials, which Minsky claimed Linden did in order “to try to intimidate and coerce [Minsky] into giving up [his] lawful trademark and rename [his] publication and other activities in a manner that would give them control of the content.”
- Fraud by Mitch Kapor (former Chairman of Linden), Philip Rosedale (former CEO and current Chairman of Linden) and Linden Research. Minsky claims they enticed people (including Minsky) to join Second Life by promising protection of their IP rights in the virtual world but then failed to provide that protection.
In September 2008, the court granted a temporary restraining order keeping Second Life users from infringing on the SLART trademark and a preliminary injunction was granted in October. Linden then filed a petition with the USPTO to cancel registration of Minsky’s trademark (alleging that Minsky lied when he said he didn't know any other meanings SLART might have, since SL- was commonly linked to Second Life), but the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decided to suspend hearings on the cancellation until after the case was decided. On October 10, Linden filed its answer as well as counterclaims seeking to terminate Minsky’s account and dismiss the complaint alleging trademark infringement, unfair competition and false designation of origin, and breach of contract by Minsky for using ‘SLART’. The avatar ‘Vezina’ was dropped willingly by Minsky from the lawsuit on December 3, 2008 as Minsky never served him. Finally, on January 22, 2009, Minsky and Linden ended litigation by reaching a settlement which apparently wasn’t made public.
While Minsky’s first website SLARTmagazine.com is no longer in existence, he now appears to be operating from http://minskyreport.com/index.html.