Are Big Companies Stupid? Onkyo suing over positive press!

Gizmos for Geeks features a daily article called “Gizmo of the Day” where the Geeks locate available products that are new and hopefully interesting. By scouring our favorite geek stores, attending trade shows, pouring through emails, reading manufacturer’s new product feeds, magazines and press releases, we choose the “Gizmo of the Day”. In a sense, we provide free advertising for various products to over 40,000 unique visitors a month (hence the reason we get so many “pick me” emails from various PR people about the products they represent!). Basically, we try to provide good karma for cool products and cool companies.

Apparently, Onkyo really does not like free advertising or positive press.

I received a cease and desist certified letter demanding that the “Infringer” (that’s me!) cease and desist from displaying Onkyo IP as well as several other items which really did not pertain to us. You have got to love good old form letters from clueless lawyers! All of this because on March 26th, 2006, we chose one of Onkyo’s products as the “Gizmo of the Day”!

There are several issues that really bother me besides the lack of common sense by Onkyo and their lawyers in killing off good press.

First, Onkyo and their lawyers are concerned with Gizmos for Geeks for “displaying” Onkyo Intellectual Property. The Onkyo IP in question would be the image of the receiver. That image is actually stored on Circuit City’s site and we simply hyperlinked to that image. In other words, we do not have a copy of the image on our server at all, instead we have some letters and symbols that look like this:
http://www.circuitcity.com/IMAGE/product/detail/onk/EC.ONK.TXSR803.JPG

Second, every other manufacturer in the world releases photos of their products for the press to use. I quite often get CD press kits full of images of products to use on our site. Well, Onkyo also has a press photo library in the press section of their site with the exact image in question available for use there.

Third, I wonder if Circuit City and other sites that have images of Onkyo products are receiving these cease and desist letters too. Granted Circuit City may be an authorized reseller of Onkyo products, but many other sites that comment on Onkyo products or cache image files like images.google.com actually have copies of the image files on their servers.

Google has roughly 74,600 images files related to Onkyo stored on their servers. I doubt Onkyo has that many image files on their site and reseller sites, so Google has been caching these files from other sites that probably do not have express written approval from Onkyo. These sites even have the image file on their servers, and as mentioned above, we don’t.

Fourth, we participate in Circuit City’s affiliate program and obtained the image due to that program. Once we decided on using the Onkyo product as a “Gizmo of the Day”, we look around our various affiliate programs to see who had the product in stock. Then, using affiliate links and image links created for us by the affiliate program we posted the information. Onkyo should probably let their resellers know that they should not list Onkyo products in their affiliate product lists.

Finally, we pride ourselves on being good netizens by not spamming, using deceitful advertising practices (pop-ups, pop-unders, etc…), and we make sure we have permission to link to images and content that we post on the site either through affiliate, public relations or partner site relationships. Being threatened with a lawsuit as the first step simply invites bad feelings and I believe bad karma. A simple (and polite) email from Onkyo requesting the removal of the image would have sufficed, but I guess some big companies are not only stupid but rude. The Geeks are generally easygoing and have no issues removing an article or image when asked nicely with a valid reason. In fact, we have done this in the past without complaint.

Anyway, to remedy the situation, we will honor Onkyo’s wishes and will remove any and all references to Onkyo off the Gizmos for Geeks site except for this article. This includes but is not limited to “Gizmo of the Day” articles, news articles, press releases and announcements and reviews. Furthermore, unless we hear otherwise from Onkyo, we will never carry another Onkyo product, press release or review.

Gizmos for Geeks must be getting popular. The Geeks had to move to our fourth website hosting company within one year and upgrade our web hosting plan from a shared to a virtual dedicated server. Our Alexa three month rating has risen from a ranking over 200,000 at the end of December to a ranking of 48,800 46,161 45,905 44,905 and finally… we got our first cease and desist letter! Looks like we made it… 😉