IMAX Corporation has apologized to the online publication Ars Technica for sending a cease-and-desist letter after the publication used the word “IMAX” in a news story.
In an article about a new version of SteamVR, a virtual reality system from Valve Software, Ars Technica included the following quote from a company founder:
“The jump up in tech between playing a normal video game and playing with Kinect was X. The jump between a regular game and playing a room scale VR experience is X times 100. It’s like saying, ‘I have an IMAX theater in my house.’ It’s so much better that we can get away with a cumbersome setup.” (Emphasis added.)
Shortly thereafter, Ars Technica received a letter from IMAX’s Deputy General Counsel saying “Any unauthorized use of our trademark is expressly forbidden.”
IMAX also complained about the comparison between the virtual reality system and IMAX:
We believe that your incorrect reference to IMAX when describing this product is misleading to readers as we do not believe that it is possible for a virtual reality system to replicate the experience of an IMAX theater…
Ars Technica contended that it had committed no act of trademark infringement:
I can say IMAX screens look like SteamVR, or that they look like my 47″ Vizio TV, or that they remind me of purple bunnies. We can review IMAX directly, we can compare it to other products, we can love it, we can hate it—all without IMAX’s permission.
As Ars Technica noted, “some companies believe that owning a trademark actually allows them to control any speech about their product.” This is not, however, the case.
Ars Technica declined to issue a retraction, and IMAX apologized for asking for one:
This is an IMAX-sized mea culpa to you, your team at Ars Technica, and your readers.
We are very passionate about our brand and sometimes we can be overzealous in trying to protect it. Unfortunately in this situation we acted too quickly without truly understanding the reference to our brand.
While it is important for a company to police the unauthorized use of its trademarks in order to avoid losing them, cease-and-desist letters should not be sent as a knee-jerk reaction to any mention of a trademark or brand name.
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Photo Attribution: “LG IMAX, Sydney, Australia” by Matthew06-06-06. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.