A good story never dies. I picked up on a podcast by KRM, talking about the trademark status of the word "webinar." Conferencing News picked up on my article and urged action by all interested parties to oppose Learn.com's filing for a new trademark on the word, as well as providing more detailed information about the registration filing. (By the way, if you've ever sent out an email invitation or posted a banner ad or issued a press release talking about an upcoming webinar... you are an interested party!).
To be honest, I was rather dismissive of the whole idea of trademarking the word at this point. It just seems impossible, given the ubiquitous unchallenged use of the term by hundreds of different parties. But Conferencing News points out that logic has never been a surefire determinant in government agency decisions.
Our combined efforts couldn't possibly have spurred additional government action this fast, so I'm going to have to label it a coincidence in timing that the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO for short) issued a second refusal letter to Learn.com this very evening at 7:56:01 PM (somebody's working late!). They say that webinar as defined by Learn.com "is merely descriptive" and can't be trademarked as a proprietary term for their unique offerings.
While I was reading the initial letter of refusal from December 28, I was amused to see that one of the side issues the agency cited as requiring amendment was that "The wording 'web conferencing services' is indefinite and must be clarified as audio and/or video teleconferencing and classified in International Class 38." I managed to find the Nice Agreement International Classification Of Goods And Services they were referring to. Class 38 deals with telecommunications. While there are subcategories ("Indication of Goods") dealing with communications by computer terminals, apparently the PTO won't yet recognize web conferencing as a uniquely labeled type of communication. You either do audio teleconferencing or video teleconferencing (or a combination of the two). This should please the Conferencing News guys, who have been waging a battle against the vendors proclaiming "telepresence" to be something separate from videoconferencing. Those vendors are going to have a tough time selling their point of view to the PTO!