HUFFING AND PUFFING: The New York Times and The Huffington Post feud isn’t going away.
Times lawyers fired off a cease-and-desist letter to Arianna Huffington on Monday, claiming that The Huffington Post’s new blog, Parentlode, is a rip-off of the Times blog Motherlode and she better change the name or else. Longtime Times writer and Motherlode founder Lisa Belkin decamped to The Huffington Post earlier this month and began writing for the new blog on Monday in a post titled, “Welcome to Parentlode.”
This story first appeared in the October 25, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“While we are flattered by your focus on our blog and your apparent fondness for its name, we obviously cannot permit you to adopt a name whose sole purpose is to create an association in the minds of readers with our ‘Motherlode’ blog,” wrote New York Times Co. lawyer Richard Samson in a letter addressed to Huffington.
“This is a transparent attempt to capitalize on the fame and reputation of the original nytimes.com blog, and constitutes an obvious infringement of The Times’ rights under U.S. Trademark law,” Samson wrote in the letter, which was obtained by WWD.
Samson wrote that the Times has filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the name Motherlode. A Times spokeswoman told WWD that that application was filed on Monday.
“Trademark rights accrue from the time you begin using the word/phrase, etc., which in the case of Motherlode, was three years ago,” e-mailed Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy. “But, yes, in fact, we filed officially this morning.”
Samson wrote that AOL has likewise filed an application to register Parentlode and “we hereby demand that you immediately change the name of the blog to something original, that you withdraw your application to register the infringing ‘Parentlode,’ and that you make no further use of any name confusingly similar to the Times’ intellectual property.” He also noted that the Huffington Post used the tag “motherlode-blog” to index the page.
Samson referred to a specific passage in Belkin’s debut post from Monday when she wrote, “Finally, why the new name? For three years I have fielded reader e-mails about how ‘Motherlode’ doesn’t really fit in an era when fathers are every bit the parent.” Samson claimed that Belkin “encourages the false impression that the HuffPo blog is a continuation of the Motherlode blog, albeit with a new name.”
Samson said that if he has not “received a response to these demands within three days of receipt of this letter, we will have no choice but to pursue all available legal remedies.”
When Belkin left the Times in September, she told WWD, “What it is that I do now is why the Huffington Post exists — the constant interaction with readers, the feedback. It’s not central to what the Times does. It shouldn’t be. That’s not why the Times exists. But since I love doing it, I’m going to have an adventure at the place that was designed to do it.”
This is just the latest round of back-and-forth between The Huffington Post and the Times. In the last year, Times writers and editors like Belkin, Tim O’Brien, Peter Goodman and Tom Zeller have all jumped to The Huffington Post. In the spring, then executive editor Bill Keller dedicated part of a Times Magazine column to trashing HuffPo’s aggregating ways and its merger with AOL.
As far as the cease-and-desist letter is concerned, a Huffington Post spokesman said, “Our only comment is that we’re very happy with the launch of Lisa Belkin’s column today — and so are our readers.”