The idea of having a trade mark for BiCon has been around for almost as long as the idea of having a company to protect the community's money.
The name is valuable: people pay in advance to attend just on the basis that it's a 'BiCon'. But although it hasn't happened very often, there have been several attempts from outside the community to call something a 'BiCon' when we wouldn't recognise it as such. That would damage our reputation, built up since 1984.
One such – I think it was going to be run by a sexual health organisation in Yorkshire – was intending to limit attendance to people who defined themselves as bisexual, for example. If you want to run your event like that, you can… but it's not a BiCon. (See #2 of the BiCon guidelines for a start.)
However stopping them calling it one would have been difficult: we'd have to bring an action for "passing off" which would involve proving that we had rights in the name, a reputation for it, there was a risk of confusion amongst potential attendees, and that we'd suffer actual harm etc.
Now, it'd be much simpler: it can be a criminal offence to misuse a registered trade mark in this way, and we'd just point to it and say 'no'.
Why's it taken so long?
For one thing, it needs a continuing organisation as the owner. There'd be little point in any one year's team registering it, for example. Then there's been the need to get agreement to pay the money: £200 for ten years, reduced to £170 by taking a deep breath and skipping an initial phase which would have saved money if the registration had been rejected. That was made possible by spending quite a bit of time learning about the Intellectual Property Office's rules to be sure enough that it wouldn't be.
Oh, and dentures.
There's a company called Bicon Dental Implants who applied for a European registered trade mark for the word back in 1998, getting it in 2000.
When you register a trade mark, you have to say what it will be used for, including which of the forty five different categories of goods and services it covers. This means it's possible for two different entities to have the same trade mark in different fields.* However as well as having it in Class 7 ('motors (not for land vehicles)') and Class 10 ('.. dental implants ..' etc), it also covered Class 41 which includes conferences and education – the class we want.
Fortunately, you also have to say exactly what in the class you're going to use it on, and their trade mark is limited to "Education and training in the use of dental implants and related goods; provision of information relating to dental implants and related goods; arranging and conducting of seminars in the use of dental implants and related goods".
So it's been possible to get another trade mark for the same word in the same class, by – amongst other things – saying that none of what we do is in relation to dental implants or related goods.**
What's our trade mark cover?
° Education and training relating to sex and sexual health;
BiCon is 'education' as far as UK VAT rules go…
° Provision of information relating to sex and sexual health;
… and it provides information around sex and sexual health.
° Arranging and conducting of events concerning sex, sexual health, and related topics;
This is what each year's team does.
° Information, advisory and consultancy services relating to all the aforegoing;
See the 'for organisers' pages on bicon.org.uk, for example. Our knowledge and skills are valuable – in future, we could offer them for hire…
° Arrangement of conferences for educational purposes; Arrangement of conferences for recreational purposes;
° Arrangement of conventions for educational purposes; Arrangement of conventions for recreational purposes;
… whether BiCon is a conference or a convention 🙂
° Arranging and conducting of games; Arranging of quizzes; Arranging of visual and musical entertainment; Party planning;
Finally, we have a reputation for throwing good parties!
Why 'sex' rather than 'bisexuality'?
The BiCon Guidelines need to say what it is; the trade mark needs to be capable of including what it isn't, and the latter is far more specific than we need to be.
There's a joke which says that, as far as people writing applications for trade marks and patents are concerned, a cat isn't a 'cat' but 'any kind of furry animal'. I'm not claiming it's particularly funny, but the point is that if you have a patent / trade mark relating to 'cats', that's all it covers. If someone does the same thing except with dogs, it is a lot harder to challenge them.
(One real life example is smart cards – one of the people with a basic patent was just thinking about embedding microcomputers in watches, but the patent was written widely enough to cover what turned out to be their real uses. If they'd just talked about watches, they'd be a lot poorer.)
So yes, the aspect of sex that BiCon is primarily concerned with is bisexuality and it's currently primarily a real-life get-together over a long weekend, but the protection should not be restricted to that or tied to that format.
If it was and someone wrote a book which claimed that bisexuality is a con and doesn't exist… and called it 'BiCon', we would still be able to have an action against them for 'passing off', but it'd be a lot harder, less certain of success, and vastly more expensive. Now we could just have it pulped and they'd have to choose a new name.
On the other hand, the scope cannot be too wide. If it's not something that is recognisably what happens now or over the next five years, we risk losing those bits for lack of use.
What about the logo?
If BiCon had a consistent logo, we would have considered having a registered trade mark for that too. But as every single year has come up with a new one, there's no point.
What will change?
You will see a few ® symbols on BiCon websites 🙂 Once you have a registered trade mark, you have to make it clear that it is one rather than a generic term.
Apart from that, not much. Unless and until the community decides to licence the word so that someone can use our reputation for their event or publication or service, it's effectively an insurance policy.
* So until Apple Inc won a court case, The Beatles' Apple Corps company had the rights to 'Apple' in relation to music and Apple Inc had them in relation to computing. Someone else has them in relation to windows, furniture and conservatories etc, and because of restrictions on what your trade mark can be, no-one has them in relation to fruit!
** There's also a UK company that has had BICON as a registered trade mark in four classes related to cables since 2001. But as it doesn't have any in Class 41, we don't need to exclude cable-related conferences.