Brands are the essence by which companies live and die. They are what we present to our audience, who become familiar with all that we stand for by learning the imagery, communications and values that are synonymous with our organisations. It can take many years and much work to establish a brand, so it is not something that any company does lightly. We have worked hard to establish our unique brand at OracleTimes, distinguishing ourselves as the ‘oracle' that provides knowledge and wisdom about all things blockchain.
An oracle is a well of knowledge and can give insight into what will happen in the future, based on things that are happening in the present. Oracles are also key components of the smart contracts that define blockchain technology, and without them, the whole system wouldn't work. It was for this reason that we chose to use the word ‘oracle' in our branding since we have always been confident that blockchain is a technology that will play a major role in the future of society.
Making an impact in an emerging industry
OracleTimes has been providing blockchain news since 2016, when awareness of the technology was fairly low. In the 3+ years since then, we have grown into one of the most prominent and established cryptocurrency and blockchain news websites, helping raise awareness of the potential of digital currency and the technology behind it. We have been an oracle for our readership, predicting the uptake of these technologies in a number of industries and presenting the latest developments in these emerging technologies. Now, a major international corporation, Oracle Corp., is demanding that we cease trading under the name OracleTimes because the name may “confuse” people into thinking we are affiliated with them in some way.
Oracle Corporation are based in Redwood City, California, and they own the trademark ORACLE® which they have been using since “at least as early as 1979 for a wide variety of computer-related goods and services”. A quick look at the corporation's Wikipedia page shows that they define themselves as a computer technology corporation that deals in database software/technology, enterprise software products, and cloud engineered systems. In the letter sent to us by their legal team, they inform us that their online ORACLE MAGAZINE® publishes news and articles “in relation to (amongst other things) blockchain, cryptocurrency and related technologies”. In reality, however, Oracle only added blockchain to their trademark in April of 2019 – a full 3 years after we began publishing articles on the subject.
Our brand is entirely based around cryptocurrency and blockchain – from the minute a visitor lands on our website or social media, this is abundantly clear. Oracle Corporation, on the other hand, very rarely mention these industries since they are primarily focused on the software and technologies they have been developing for decades. We present as a news outlet, providing up-to-date information on everything related to cryptocurrencies, whilst they present as a technology company that provides authoritative and expert articles on certain developments in the broader computing space. What's more, we never – EVER – make any reference to an affiliation with their brand, and the idea that consumers might be “confused” over the issue gravely underestimates the intelligence of the average reader.
A familiar feeling…
The idea that this corporation can claim ownership of the word ‘oracle' in this fashion has echoes of a YouTube controversy from 2016. That year, the Fine Brothers attempted a trademark claim for the word ‘react', positing that they were the first to come up with the concept of filming themselves reacting to content. The resulting backlash against them was enormous, from both the wider YouTube community and the entire viewership, and it resulted in the Fine Brothers quickly backing down and even apologizing for their actions – though not before losing an enormous number of subscribers. The outrage revolved around the opinion that these people, regardless of what they had accomplished with their work, could not own the concept of reacting to things. The format of observing the reactions of people had existed for years before the Fine Brothers became YouTubers, and this was why they ultimately failed in their trademark claim.
We bring this up because this attempt by Oracle Corporation to eliminate us on the grounds that we use the word ‘oracle' in our brand name is comparable. It is an entirely superficial part of both our brand and theirs – nothing else about our brands is similar. The concept of an oracle has existed for thousands of years, and it is the definition of that concept that forms the basis of our decision to use the name. Our mission has always been to function as a de facto ‘oracle' for our readership, delivering up-to-the-minute news and analysis that can give insights into what the future may hold. The way we have branded ourselves revolves around this concept, and as soon as anyone visits our platforms there will be no confusion as to whether we are affiliated with Oracle Corporation in any way.
It is definitely worth noting that this legal threat to our business is not the first time Oracle Corporation has done this. Since adding blockchain to their trademark in April 2019, they have begun a ruthless campaign to eliminate any potential competitors in the blockchain news space. The most notable instance so far has been the attack on Crypto Oracle LLC, in which Oracle Corporation alleged federal trademark infringement, unfair competition, federal trademark dilution, state trademark infringement/dilution and cybersquatting. With the notoriety of the ORACLE® trademark, they were able to bring this claim to the far smaller company in the same way they have to us.
It started with cease and desist letters, demanding that Crypto Oracle change their name if they wish to continue trading. The owner of Crypto Oracle, Louis Kerner, responded by applying to register the trademark CRYPTOORACLE, and this led to the corporation suing Mr Kerner and his company for all they had. Now, we have already mentioned our mission to be ‘oracles' in the blockchain space, but the word has even greater significance in blockchain that could well be the downfall of these cases Oracle Corporation is bringing against us and our contemporaries.
The blockchain oracle
Blockchains and smart contracts are not able to access any data that comes from outside their network. This means that, in order to know how to respond in certain situations, a smart contract must gain access to relevant external electronic data that is referred to as an oracle. These oracles are specific services used to send and receive real-world data and submit it to smart contracts in order to trigger changes of state in the blockchain. This means that oracles are an intrinsic part of blockchain technology, in a way that is completely unrelated to the use of ‘oracle' in Oracle Corporation.
This is the other reason we used the word in our brand name. Just as the oracles help verify and deliver relevant data to the smart contracts that define blockchain technology, we aim to find and deliver key information to anyone seeking knowledge in this exciting and emerging space. We are entirely focused on the niche that we are passionate about, and we have built our brand around an intrinsic link to that niche with the use of a word in our company name that is an integral part of how blockchain actually works.
The very fact that Oracle Corporation neglects to acknowledge this piece of information speaks volumes of the thinking behind these actions: either they have failed to realize that oracles are an element of blockchain, exposing an alarming lack of knowledge about the subject matter. Or, they have willfully ignored this fact in their ruthless pursuit of dominance in their latest venture and the procurement of the business that others have worked so hard to generate.
A transparent agenda
What is clear to us is that Oracle Corporation are trying hard to bully smaller companies out of the space with these trademark infringement claims. Their legal team implies that our use of the word ‘oracle' is an attempt to gain business by exploiting the reputation of their company or to dilute the distinctiveness of their own trademark. They completely ignore the fact that the concept of an oracle has existed for millennia, and that oracles are actually a key component of the way blockchain technology works. They then go on to use bully-boy tactics like veiled threats in the form of wishing “to resolve this matter amicably”, and insistence that we “permanently discontinue” the use of our brand name by a short deadline.
The fact is, both OracleTimes and Crypto Oracle have been operating in the blockchain/cryptocurrency news space far longer than Oracle Corporation, and they wish to cement their recent move into space by eliminating competition. Furthermore, the naming of their company occurred decades before blockchain even existed as an idea, so their name can't possibly be based on blockchain oracles like ours is. The threats and intimidation are all about pushing us out of the space and seizing our audience for themselves, knowing that their resources far outweigh that which we have at our disposal.
Though Oracle Corporation claims early adoption of blockchain as a potential basis for new technology into their operations, there is no denying that they have only recently added blockchain to their trademark. Similarly, it has only been recently that they have posted any news or updates about blockchain via their online magazine. Conversely, we have been providing this type of news and information for more than 3 years on our platform, and every element of our website and social media is dedicated to delivering comprehensive updates on the very latest developments in everything related to cryptocurrency and blockchain.
As previously stated, we have never claimed any kind of link to Oracle Corporation. We do not want to have to go through an extensive rebrand, remove all our social media profiles, cancel our website's domain name and surrender all marketing materials to a multinational corporation with an imperialistic mindset. We have worked extremely hard to develop our brand and make it distinct from any competition on our journey to becoming one of the most prominent cryptocurrency news websites. The idea of piggybacking on the success of another company has never been in our minds; we have worked tirelessly to build what we have from the ground up and carved out own place in the niche we specialise in.
Same old story
We want to stand in solidarity with Crypto Oracle in the face of this bullying and intimidation from a major corporation. History is full of stories of giant corporations marching in and pillaging the work of smaller organisations in order to further their own ends. Whether through company buy-outs or legal action like in this case, this is the age-old story of how the same names retain their positions of power for generations, and it truly is a deplorable tactic.
We want to assure our audience that we are not taking this lying down, and we are seeking our own legal advice as to what our next action should be. Our goal is to continue providing the latest news and developments in our niche, and we hope to be able to continue doing so under the brand name that we love. The deadline given by Oracle Corporation for us to discontinue all use of the word ‘oracle' is 10th October 2019, so expect more developments between now and then. We will also be closely monitoring the situation with Crypto Oracle as we go through our own fight.
Any other companies out there that have based their brand around a name that includes ‘oracle' should probably pay close attention to this story – they will come for you next.
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