Apple, Zynga, listed as top trademark bullies of the year

Trademarks are tricky beasts, especially during these litigious times. When you’re naming your company, product, or service, you have to be very careful to avoid using a word that someone might drag you into court (or demand a fee) for. Companies that are particularly sue-happy when it comes to trademarks are known as “trademark bullies.” But who’s the worst bully around these days? Here’s a hint: it’s not Tim Langdell.

TechCrunch has an excellent write-up about startup Trademarkia, allows you to search for trademarks by company, product, theme, and even filing attorney. While that’s certainly useful, the service now contains a new feature that lets you check out who the biggest trademark bullies are. Surprisingly, the biggest bully of 2011 was Kellogg North America (you know, the folks who make cereals like Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies). Not too far behind, though, were Apple, Zynga, and Facebook.

Apple sits firmly at the number three position on the list; Zynga and Facebook came in at fourth and eighth places, respectively. Apple, it turns out, claims it owns “pad” and likes to bully people who use “app” and “pod.” Zynga likes to go after anyone using “ville” and Facebook — unsurprisingly — often sues companies when they have “book” or “face” included in their names.

Trademarkia’s bully list seems like a service that would be especially useful for any small developer (literally) looking to make a name for itself. Word to the wise, everyone: spending a couple of hours familiarizing yourself with which words are likely to land you in legal hot water will likely save you a lot of headaches further down the line.

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