Through a discussion in our comments section on our post about the GPL we recently got to know that Automattic is actively asking businesses having the word ‘woo’ in their domain name to change the domain name. This will no doubt affect GPL plugin resellers as many do have woo in their domain name. The first known site to bow to the pressure is WooGPL. The owner of that site, Billy Ablett, has in fact announced the closure of WooGPL and its reopening as GPLKit.
A quick search for Woo as a trademark brings up two entries in the JUSTIA website which is where many trademarks can be looked up together with their status. With regards to the Woo illustration (“Woo” in a speech bubble) the trademarking process seems to have been abandoned last year. The character mark typeset is currently published for opposition although a later updated seems to indicate that it has been withdrawn from issue. I’m not an expert in trademarks but it seems that Automattic has been having trouble in trademarking ‘woo’. Perhaps one of our lawyer friends can shed further light in the comment section.
Apart from the GPL plugin resellers there are a number of other WooCommerce-related websites providing services and WooCommerce add-ons that might be affected by this action. Time will tell whether Automattic is only interested in protecting the sales of WooCommerce addons from the GPL plugin resellers or whether they will really go after anyone running a WordPress business from a domain containing the word ‘Woo’.
Interestingly enough there are also well-known sites within the web industry at large which use ‘Woo’ in their name. One example is Woobox, which offers Sweepstakes, Coupons, and more for Facebook Pages & Twitter. This leads me to think that Automattic will have a hard time trademarking Woo and enforcing a ban on using it within domains.