Why PodCamp in a Social Media World?

A few people wondered why, with so much focus on social media, we still use the word PodCamp. It’s not just legacy or brand, though those are two considerations. There’s also a vitally important legal reason.

Terms like Social Media Club, Social Media Breakfast, Social Media Camp, Social Media Bar, Social Media Meetup, etc. all have failed in part or in whole the trademark process. The reason is that Social Media is a generic term, like toothpaste or lawyer. Organizations have in the past tried to register these terms and been told that they can’t, as the term is too generic.

Last year, Chris Brogan, Whitney Hoffman, and I kicked in some cash and made PodCamp a registered trademark as part of our incorporation. The PodCamp Foundation is a legal entity, an S-Corporation registered as a business in the state of Delaware, and the primary purpose of the PodCamp Foundation is to enforce and defend the trademark of PodCamp.

We did this primarily so that someone can’t arbitrarily start PodCamp Microsoft or PodCamp General Motors, and use the PodCamp name and community goodwill to promote a specific brand. It also gives us the ability to selectively approve or disapprove the use of the PodCamp name, in case someone chooses not to adhere to the six rules of PodCamp and the PodCamp Foundation License.

If we want to change the name of an event itself, that’s fine – we can always do “PodCamp presents…” or something along that vein. However, the PodCamp name and associated legal rights are an important part of keeping PodCamp owned by the community that started it.

If you’re running an organization of any kind in the social media/new media space, give some consideration to what you name it and how well you’ll be able to retain intellectual property rights over the community you shepherd. Check with a lawyer if you can to see what your options are, because ultimately as the founder of your organization, it will be your spirit and vision that drives it, and if you can’t retain rights to the name, you may lose everything you’ve worked for.

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