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I Am Not a Rollerblader

You can call me an inline skater, an in-line skater, a rollerskater, a roller skater, a blader or even - as my skateboarding friends do - call me a fruit booter! But please don't call me a Rollerblader, even if I am wearing Rollerblade skates.

Article Date: January 29, 2002

The generic name for the sport of rolling on skates with wheels that are arranged in a line (instead of side by side) is "inline skating" or "inline roller skating". These terms will cover all forms of the sport including aggressive inline skating, inline figure skating, recreational inline skating, inline speed skating, and all other forms of the sport.

If you are inclined to refer to the sport as "Rollerblading", you might find yourself being corrected by friends who are aware that Rollerblade is a brand name and the name of one company who makes inline skates. And writers who use the term Rollerblading in an article or news report are likely to receive a cordial but firm "cease and desist" letter from Rollerblade, Inc. or Tecnica the Italian sports equipment manufacturer who owns Rollerblade.

Isn't Rollerblade a Verb?
The word Rollerblade cannot be used as a common verb, because it is protected by a trademark. When it is used in a sentence, it should always be capitalized, and only used as an adjective describing Rollerblade brand skates. The 2000 edition of the "Associated Press Style Book" (a bible for press writers - see link at the bottom of this page) includes this guidance about use of the term Rollerblading: FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STYLE BOOK: "The company that manufactures Rollerblade skates, the popular in-line roller skates, is another aggressive defender of its trademark. They don't like it when editors allow sentences such as, "He fell and fractured his elbow while rollerblading."

Why Does Rollerblade Care?
In order to protect their trademark, Rollerblade is required by the U.S. Patent Office to make a significant effort to find instances of misuse of the terms "Rollerblade" and "Rollerblading", and follow up by sending a letter to the offenders. If it can ever be shown that Rollerblade permitted generic use of their trademarked name, they could lose their claim to that trademark. Many trademarks have been inadvertently forfeited by their owners because the owners allowed them to slip in common usage. Some well-known examples of trademarks that have been lost are windsurfer, aspirin, escalator, cellophane and yo-yo. Xerox is another company with good reason to be concerned about their trademark lapsing into common usage. If you get caught using the word Xerox as a generic verb, you will received a "cease and desist" letter from Xerox every time.

Two Test Cases
Rollerblade has established firm control over the name "Rollerblade" but it has not been quite as easy to prevent the term "Rollerblading" from slipping into common usage. In 2000 Rollerblade was involved in two domain name disputes, which were arbitrated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) according to the ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. WIPO's domain name decisions have been the topic of much controversy, and it's important to note that domain name decisions made by WIPO do not affect a company's ownership of a trademark.

Resolution of Those Two Test Cases
In the two domain name disputes in 2000, Rollerblade won a dispute against the owner of the domain name "Rollerblade.net" but they lost the dispute against the owner of "Rollerblading.com" I found this last decision annoying for my own personal reasons. Rollerblading.com is a badly designed (in my opinion) Web site that has often reprinted material from my About.com site, Aggressive.com and other inline skating sites without citing the source or requesting permission. I have complained about their practices on several public bulletin boards, and I discovered only this week that Rollerblading.com is using ANOTHER one of my articles, "How to Get Started on Inline Skates", without giving About.com credit or asking permission (sigh... here we go again...) IMPORTANT NOTE: Rollerblading.com should not be confused with the very nice Australian Web site Rollerblading.com.au which is owned and operated by IISA certified instructor James O'Connor of Sydney.
Now back to the topic of this article: The full decisions handed down by WIPO in the two Rollerblade domain name disputes can be viewed online here:

WIPO Decisions Affecting Rollerblade
Full Text of the Decisions

Rollerblade.net (WIPO.int)
Rollerblade vs. Chris McCrady
Case Number: D2000-0429
Filed: May 26, 2000
Decision: June 25, 2000

Rollerblading.com (WIPO.int)
Rollerblade vs. CBNO and Ray Redican Jr.
Case Number: D2000-0427
Filed: May 26, 2000
Decision: August 24, 2000

What do you think about WIPO's decisions in the Rollerblade cases? Post a message on our forum at AskAboutSkating.com and share your ideas.

Organizations and Documents Mentioned in This Article
  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
  • ICANN Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy
  • United States Patent and Trademark Office

    Books Mentioned in This Article
  • Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law
  • Associated Press Guide to Punctuation

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