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I have domain name mathoverflow.in, and I want to develop a free website or Q2A discussion forum using https://www.question2answer.org/ free open source platform. I'd asked from team@stackoverflow.com regarding permission for using mathoverflow.in. They suggested to me ask here.


I have read Who owns MathOverflow? and Copyright of MathOverflow logo? explained that there is no trademark for mathoverflow and could be allowed if does not violate other rules. I respect Hard work for building a brand under a name and Trademark law.

So, basically my question is:

Can I use domain name mathoverflow.in ?

The purpose of mathoverflow.in will be helping math students, math questions by job Indian aspirants. So, there will not be copyright issue and copyright content will removed immediately, if you grant me permission to built this. I am not trying to build it for earning purpose because it may not be sufficient traffic (small website :) ).

Thanks in advance.

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  • $\begingroup$ I flagged this post to get more attention and for answer(s). Thank you. $\endgroup$ – Mithlesh Upadhyay Feb 11 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ I have nothing to contribute about legal discussions of copyright. However, I think this could lead to confusion between the two sites, and possibly posts to MathOverflow.net that would have been more appropriate to MathOverflow.in. Given the drastic difference in goals between this site and what you have in mind, I see that as a serious problem: MathOverflow is a website for research mathematicians, while you propose something more analogous in scope to Math.StackExchange. $\endgroup$ – Mike Miller Feb 11 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for comment @MikeMiller , I respect your opinion, however I were planed mathoverflow.in in mother tongue (i.e., Hindi). Also, mathoverflow.net >> math.stackexchange.com >>>>>>> mathoverflow._in_. $\endgroup$ – Mithlesh Upadhyay Feb 11 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you want to use the MathOverflow name in the first place? It would help recognition of your project if you use a distinctive name of your own. $\endgroup$ – Emil Jeřábek Feb 11 at 9:11
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilJeřábek I suppose this could be popular name as people are using 'overflow' word like gateoverflow , jeeoverflow, stackoverflow etc. But if community of mathoverflow.net think that I am trying to harm mathoverflow.net , then I am also ready to release mathoverflow.in domain name (in respect of community). $\endgroup$ – Mithlesh Upadhyay Feb 11 at 9:25
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    $\begingroup$ IANAL & I'm not MO regular, but having a same domain with only the difference in the TLD will confuse someone (is it .net? .in?), unless both sites want to cooperate by mentioning the alternative on the homepage (e.g. "Looking for Stack Exchange's MathOverflow? Click here!"). While you could do this, I'm not sure SE is willing to do this to help some users who got lost to this site accidentally. $\endgroup$ – Andrew T. Feb 11 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. , thanks, I don't know if Mathoverflow.net will do it, but if they allow to build this, then I will surely add this banner on head of every page of mathoverflow.in . I also don't know if mathoverflow.net will loose its users because of mathoverflow.in, but it is sure that mathoverflow.net will get more users because of mathoverflow.in , if it will build. $\endgroup$ – Mithlesh Upadhyay Feb 11 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ @MikeMiller it's not a question of copyright, but trademark. I think Andrew T's point is the relevant one. IANAL, but from WP: A trademark can be valid because it is officially registered, or because it has a claim under common law. (the US recognises common-law trademarks). Whether the defendant's use of the trademark is likely to confuse consumers. and likelihood of confusion that consumers will believe the products or services originated from the trademark owner are relevant points. $\endgroup$ – David Roberts Feb 11 at 10:19
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    $\begingroup$ “But if community of mathoverflow.net think that I am trying to harm mathoverflow.net , then I am also ready to release mathoverflow.in domain name” — It seems clear that you’re acting in good faith and not trying to harm MathOverflow. However, for all the reasons others are giving, it seems clear that (if your site is successful and attracts a significant number of users) it will harm MathOverflow through causing confusion, and it will similarly harm your own site, compared to if you had given it its own distinctive name. $\endgroup$ – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Feb 11 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ Looking at the comments, you're already set on using that name, and nothing short of legal threats will dissuade you. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Feb 11 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ There is no intention to harm mathoverflow.net , I was student of math, so I respect this beautiful and high educated community. Let's suppose mathoverflow.in overtake mathoverflow.net (although it seems impossible) , as I earlier commented that I will put banners/texts on top of every page, so there will be more benefit of mathoverflow.net regarding traffic, @PeterLeFanuLumsdaine $\endgroup$ – Mithlesh Upadhyay Feb 11 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila sir, not yet, since this was available so I bought it, after I seen term "trademark", then I'v mailed to team@SO . However, if this is trademark word, I will not use. $\endgroup$ – Mithlesh Upadhyay Feb 11 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ “There is no intention to harm mathoverflow.net.” I appreciate that! But this thread feels like you are asking me “Is it illegal if I stand on your toes?”, I say “I don’t know, but it will hurt”, and you say “Oh! I don’t want to hurt you. But is it illegal? If it’s illegal, then I won’t do it.” If you don’t want to hurt me, then don’t stand on my toes, whether it’s illegal or not. Similarly, if you have no intention to harm MathOverflow, the best way to show that is to respect the requests of MO users here and not use a misleadingly similar domain name, regardless of trademark status. $\endgroup$ – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Feb 11 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterLeFanuLumsdaine :) , well if I release this domain name, someone will buy and use. Will that ok? I think no . What should do with this domain name? Should I release without bothering anything or handover it to MO Inc. ? Will they accept it?. $\endgroup$ – Mithlesh Upadhyay Feb 11 at 11:59
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A trademark infringement occurs when unauthorized use of a trademark (or a substantially similar mark, like a distinctive logo or motto) happens in the same domain of operation as the original. In the case of MathOverflow, this is pretty clear: another Q&A or discussion site using the MathOverflow name (or even something very similar, like the initials MO for a math-related Q&A site) is in trademark infringement. On the other hand, a plumbing service called MathOverflow is not at all in trademark infringement. A legal action would only be worthwhile for MathOverflow if the unauthorized Q&A site could potentially be confused with the original site (intentionally or not).

If my understanding of your situation is correct, you are thinking about using the MathOverflow name for some kind of math-related Q&A or discussion board. This is a clear trademark infringement: don't do it!

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Sir. Should I release it or do you need this domain (you can link on existing site like mathoverflow.com/.org)? (.in is popular domain name, I guess). $\endgroup$ – Mithlesh Upadhyay Feb 11 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ @MithleshUpadhyay We have all the domains we need. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Feb 11 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ "...a plumbing service called MathOverflow..." Just might happen: jokes.nick-santos.com/2007/05/mathematician-and-plumber.html $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Feb 11 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Gerry: I know this joke in a whole other set up, and a slightly different punchline. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Feb 12 at 20:35
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I am neither a lawyer nor an official representative of MathOverflow. My opinion is that this will cause more problems than it will solve.

Suppose someone posts something defamatory on your website. You may be liable for the possible damages caused. However, the lawyers might not just sue you. They may go after MathOverflow and consider them liable too, even though no-one at MathOverflow LLC was involved with the creation or administration of the site or involved with the defamatory post.

Even if you take care to distinguish your site from MathOverflow and assume all responsibility, people on the outside may not see the distinction between your site and this forum. I suggest re-branding your website, and let others draw comparisons between the two.

Gerhard "Doesn't Like Asking For Trouble" Paseman, 2019.02.11.

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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the domain name, my opinion is that the corporation is unlikely to accept it from you. I suggest not using it except perhaps to redirect to a different site, say indianjobsinmath.in , where this different site is clearly distinct in form and function from MathOverflow. Gerhard "This Might Still Cause Problems" Paseman, 2019.02.11. $\endgroup$ – Gerhard Paseman Feb 11 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your explanation. $\endgroup$ – Mithlesh Upadhyay Feb 11 at 18:34

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