Bulgarian Ad blocker claims Adblock Plus used a trademark complaint to force it offline

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 April, 2016, 7:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 April, 2016, 4:28pm

One of the developers behind free desktop ad blocker, Adblock Ultimate, says he is "surprised and confused" after a trademark complaint from the company behind the popular ad blocker, Adblock Plus, forced his software out of the Google Chrome Web Store.

The news comes a month after a separate DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] request from Adblock Plus parent company Eyeo saw Apple remove mobile ad blocker Magic Adblock from its App Store

Adblock Ultimate was created by a "group of enthusiasts from Bulgaria who were sick and tired of ad blockers that have 'Acceptable Ads' and whitelists and don't block ads on most websites and Google.com," developer Veselin Georgiev told Business Insider.

The desktop browser extension has notched up more than 1 million downloads on Firefox and 10,000 downloads on Google Chrome since its launch late last year, Adblock Ultimate claims.

However, on March 30, the Adblock Ultimate team received an email from Google informing them the extension had been removed from the Chrome Web Store on the grounds of a trademark infringement complaint from Adblock Plus-owner, Eyeo.

The complaint, from Eyeo, read:

We understand that your company uses the name “AdBlock” in connection with its advertisement screening software. But Adblock Plus has continuously used the ADBLOCK® Marks since January 2006 in the United States and throughout the world, and has invested and continues to invest heavily to develop and enhance the fame of the ADBLOCK® Marks. As a result of such long-term use, advertising and expenditures, Adblock Plus has established considerable goodwill in the ADBLOCK® Marks. We need to protect our users from getting confused. So we do not offer any trademark related license agreement at the moment besides our own products. Therefore we would have to request you to change the name of your product to something that does not include "Adblock", "Adblock Plus" and/or "ABP".

Georgiev, however, feels Adblock Ultimate is a "victim" of a "ridiculous" complaint, forcing it to change its name "for absolutely no reason."

He added: "We named it Adblock Ultimate, because we believe 'adblock' is the common term for blocking ads in any browser. Actually, most of the ad blockers in Chrome Web Store include the word 'adblock'."

A Google spokesperson said: "While we won't comment on specific apps, if an app breaks our Google Chrome Web policies, we'll remove it from the store and inform the developer. The app can be resubmitted for inclusion once the issues have been addressed."

The policy states that developers must agree their software does not violate "intellectual property rights, including patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, or other proprietary right of any party."

It's not immediately clear which specific trademark Eyeo believes has been infringed by Adblock Ultimate.

Adblock Plus' European Community Trademarks, which include a mark for "Adblock Plus" and the company's various logos, including one for the "Adblock Browser," but not the word "adblock" on its own. And this is the Adblock Plus mark registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The email from Eyeo implies it owns "Adblock" trademarks in Brazil, China, Russia, and Taiwan. "Adblock" itself was not invented by Eyeo, but began in the developer community as an open source project.

Eyeo spokesman Ben Williams, said: "I don't want to comment on specific instances or cases, including this one, but we have registered trademarks for names similar to ours. We don't care if people take our code, but the amount of copycats out there rises with the the popularity of ad blocking in general — and many of these lure users into downloading malware."

The Adblock Ultimate browser is still available on Firefox — where it has proved to be most popular — but Georgiev said the team plans to rebrand anyway, across all browsers, to "Ad Blocker Ultimate" to avoid any future issues.