Yikes, what a disheartening story.
Proving that they don’t know a damned thing about fan communities, Sony Ericsson has filed a formal complaint against the fan-operated blog/forum Xperiablog.net, claiming that the owners were using it in “bad faith”. Fearing the costs of a legal battle, the site says they will be shutting down operations immediately.
If there were a class on “How not to handle potentially sticky trademark issues”, this would be lesson one.
Here’s the thing about the users in a community like this (I used to run a few, long before my time here at TechCrunch): they love the product. They really, really love it. In most cases, it’s almost an obsession. Think about it: they love it enough to search for other people who love the product, and who want to sit around and talk about nothing but the product. Treat them right, and they’ll be some of the best marketers you’ll ever find. For free.
Instead, Sony Ericsson has just gone and turned them all into enemies. A large group of people, all obviously quite vocal about the products they use, now dislike your product. Whoops.
The site’s founder on the decision to shutdown:
We do not have the resources to fight Sony Ericsson on this and therefore this is the last you will hear from us. Sony Ericsson has made great strides in its Xperia portfolio, especially in listening to the community. This makes it all the more confusing as to why Sony Ericsson would want to shut us down. We genuinely believe that 2012 could be a bumper year for the company, we just wish we could have been there along for the ride.
Admittedly, using a trademarked term wasn’t the best move on their part (at least from a legal standpoint) — but it is pretty much standard. Imagine if Sprint went after SprintUsers, Google after AndroidCentral, or Facebook after InsideFacebook?
Was it Sony Ericsson’s job to protect their trademark? Absolutely — but there are better ways to do it. At the very least: reach out, express the company’s concerns, and offer to help them find a new, less trademark-infringing home. When someone’s doing you a service, you don’t hold a gun to their head because they’re not doing it the way you’d like.