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TenantNet in todays's New York Times

Posted by EZT on November 04, 2001 at 16:25:19:

November 4, 2001

A New Battleground for an Old War: The Internet

By KELLY CROW

ld opponents tenants and landlords appear to have found new turf
to dispute: cyberspace.

For more than a year, a tenant advocate organization has battled a real
estate firm's claim to a name, TenantNet, and an Internet address,
www.tenant.net. But last week, as the United States Patent and Trademark
Office considered the issue, the firm abandoned plans for the site and called
the argument a misunderstanding. No one called it a truce.

John Fisher, a computer consultant, said he created a Web site in 1994 for
his online newsletter, which he called TenantNet. He later added news about
housing court decisions and rent stabilization rules. These days, he said,
about 4,000 people a day visit his site's 10,000 Web pages.

"When I started out as a tenant, I did not know where to turn for housing laws
and information," Mr. Fisher said. "My site is well known for giving that. The
problem was, I never registered the name."

This summer, neighbors told him they were unable to find his site. When they
came to www.tenant.net, they found a blank page belonging to Julien J.
Studley, one of the city's large real estate firms. Mr. Fisher called the
company and learned it had begun proceedings to trademark the name and
address as well as www.tenantnetwork .com and www.tenant net.com.

Mr. Fisher said he felt angry and foolish. "A trademark just didn't seem worth
the trouble in the beginning," he said. He only told neighbors about the
dispute last week when he learned that the federal trademark office was
nearing a decision.

"I guess I relied on people's good faith," he added. "But I was scared because
we need people to be able to find us. If we lost our name, we would lose a lot
of our credibility.`

Alison Miller, a Studley spokeswoman, said her firm initially had no knowledge
of Mr. Fisher's TenantNet; it just wanted to reserve the name and addresses
for a possible Web site of property listings.

Last week, though, her office was flooded with faxes and letters from angry
TenantNet users. Soon after, the firm withdrew the application, though she
said the move had nothing to do with the outcry.

"We're simply abandoning a project that we've decided we don't need
anymore," she said. "We realized we're happier with our internal listings
database, so we've changed directions. Someone has made a big deal out of
nothing."

Still, Mr. Fisher plans to trademark the name, and longtime TenantNet users
are pleased.

"There are so few tenant groups with any recognition and power, so I'm very
grateful they'll be around," said Elly Stone, 74, a voice teacher. "Anything that
levels the playing field somewhat is a relief, even if it's just a name."


Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

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