What happened next?

The days immediately after Intel's initial letter

Added 07/17/96


The day after I received Intel's initial letter, I called their legal department, and asked to speak with Ms. Erin Townley, the author of the letter. There was some confusion in my mind whether or not she was an attorney (her title was "Trademark Enforcement Specialist"). So as my first question, I asked her "are you an attorney?" My curiosity was natural, I thought. After all, I had just received this nasty letter, and I wanted to make darn sure that whoever wrote it, had the power and authority to write it, and discuss it. She responded affirmatively, that she was indeed an attorney. Now I felt more comfortable in discussing the letter and its contents.

Initially, the conversation was very awkward. That feeling soon faded, when I found Ms. Townley to be a very nice person. We discussed our positions, at length. As I pointed out in my response letter, I didn't view my logo as a trademark infringement. My logo has never been mistaken for their corporate logo. I didn't provide any links to their web site (I do now). I am not profiteering in any way from my web site, whereby they can claim I'm using the recognition of their logo to my profitable gain. In fact, my logo is an obvious form of satire. This satirical display is substantiated by the tone and content of material at my web site. Finally, satirical use of a trademarked logo has been established by the US Supreme court as a legitimate form of protected free speech.

Ms. Townley and I discussed these positions and possible solutions. I didn't think she had a legal right to ask me to change my logo. But I never said "I would never change my logo." In the end, she admitted that satire was a protected form of free speech, and suggested that I change my logo to make the satire more obvious. IfI changed the logo in such a manner, she said, Intel wouldn't have any further concerns - and would leave me alone.

That night, I discussed this issue with a friend of mine. He uses a very famous attorney, known to all combatants in the x86 clone wars. He sent Intel's Trademark Letter to his attorney, knowing that it would cost him many hundreds of dollars in the process. The attorney looked at the letter and told him "Intel doesn't have a legal leg to stand on…but it will cost your friend millions of dollars to prove it." He continued and told my friend "I suggest that he change his logo. He claims his logo is satire. Intel claims that they're not sure it's satire. It should be possible for him to change his logo, in such a way, that will make it a more obvious form of satire…and serve the same purpose of pissing Intel off, even more. In fact, it should be possible to change the logo in such a manner that will make Intel wish they had never asked him to change it…in the first place." So that night, my friend and I came up with the logo that's displayed below.

Intel Secrets(TM) logo

In creating the logo, we wanted to have as much fun, at Intel's expense as we could, within our protected first amendment rights. To start things off, we needed to make the logo a more obvious form of satire. OK, the circle-slash should have taken care of that. Next, we wanted to parody the famous Intel Inside logo without using any of the trademarked logo, itself. "Absolutely Not Inside" seemed to fit just right. Finally, just in case some idiot still wasn't sure that my web site wasn't affiliated with Intel, we wanted to add a disclaimer that announced no affiliation with Intel. We decided that the disclaimer should also serve as the tool to stick the cattle prod up Intel's butt, and make them wish they had never asked me to change the logo…in the first place. So, we came up with the phrase "The Intel Secrets web site is proud to announce no affiliation with Intel." Hence, the new logo was born. I was very proud of our new creation. On one hand, I knew it was guaranteed to make Intel furious, and on the other hand, it was much more professional looking than the old logo.

The next day, Ms. Townley called me back. She was proud to inform me that "Intel was going to drop the whole thing." I couldn't believe my ears! Intel was backing off? You mean I won this battle? She told me that after reviewing this issue (and all of the legal points I mentioned), Intel had determined that my logo didn't represent a trademark infringement -- after all. All I wanted was one simple thing: "can you give it to me in writing?" No, she said.

My position was simple: Intel made a legal accusation of trademark infringement - in writing. Therefore, if Intel retracts the allegation, I am owed this proof in writing. Naturally, I was disappointed when she refused. She explained that Intel didn't want to abdicate their legal position by giving me proof, in writing, that my logo wasn't a trademark infringement. I told Ms. Townley that I believed it was possible to draft such a letter, that retracted their allegation, without jeopardizing the strength of their trademark. Ms. Townley seemed intrigued by my suggestion, and promised to research the issue, and get back to me. She never fulfilled this promise.

After this conversation, I was busy putting the finishing touches on the new logo. After I had finished, I emailed Ms. Townley to inform her that I had changed my logo in accordance with her recommendations. I also informed her that I didn't think Intel would be happy with the new logo, and that Intel had asked for it…in more ways than one. I thought this would settle this issue, once and for all…boy, I was wrong!

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Read Round 3: Intel gets selective amnesia Back to Intel Vs. Collins