Updated: Jenn Mathews talks about the Search & Social Service Mark

Updated: On Sunday, August 19th, Jenn Mathews posted a public response on her blog regarding the “Search and Social” service mark.  In her post she goes in depth about her road to attaining the service mark.  From her initial industry work experience to planning the “Search and Social Woot!” conferences, she divulges her intentions and how she plans to move forward. 

Last week Jenn Mathews announced that she has a registered service mark for the popular industry term,“Search and Social”. She publicly posted the below image on her Facebook Timeline, where she was promptly greeted with negativity and complete dismay from thought leaders in both the social and SEO industries.  I would like to update this post to reflect Jenn’s recent discourse and insights that continues to shed light on this discussion.


Who is Jenn Mathews?

Jenn Mathews
Jenn Mathews

Jenn is the current president at Wappow, where she orchestrates conferences and networking opportunities for individuals and companies within the online marketing and emerging media space.   She is well versed and experienced in SEO, PPC, social media and other media outlets, and has over 10 years of experience in the industry.

I do not know Jenn personally, and I am excited about how this topic and discussion is carving a path for open conversations about this event.


Why did she register “Search and Social” as a service mark?

Despite initial negative public discourse surrounding her announcement, Jenn defended the service mark stating,

“I did it to protect the Search and Social Conferences, the Search and Social workshops, and the Search and Social Consulting company I run.
I have run across others using it, and we have mutually worked out an agreement.”


Are we experiencing trademark déjà vu in the industry?

Remember the guy that attempted to register “SEO” as a trademark in April 2008?  Jason Gambert truly riled up the SEO community when he attempted to take ownership of “Search Engine Optimization”, SEO, stating that he was the first person to use the term.  His argument for registering is below and was first posted on his personal blog.

“My goal in owning the trademark for the word SEO is not to try to force people to change their SEO process, but rather, prevent companies from selling “SEO” as a service under false pretenses.

…We will also be forming a board of directors to oversee changes to the process, and format in which SEO can be sold (basically the BBB for the SEO industry).
We will restrict businesses from selling the process of SEO as an “SEO” service if they do not meet the process approved by the SEO trademark requirements.
Those approved will use SEO as normal, but will now be able to use the term as SEO™, and will be able to claim that their SEO service is approved under SEO
trademark guidelines.

This power is for the people of the Search community and the protection of the general business consumer.”

Rhea Drysdale
Rhea Drysdale


The challenge began when SEOmoz filed the first opposition to the trademark in 2008. However, the company never pursued this further due to their legal spat with Ripoff Report.  Ultimately, the victory of the industry came down to SEO enthusiasts and the incredible perseverance of a certain individual, 25-year-old Rhea Drysdale (right), who fought the case with her own finances, and almost two years later, won the case.  In March of 2010, Gambert’s claim was formally blocked.

Seeing that this instance was successful in disputing a previously registered trademark, could this happen once again?  Click here to learn more about disputing registered service marks.


In an updated statement from her blog yesterday, Jenn states:

“I can only hope in this blog post and as as time will tell, that I am making myself clear – I do not in any way have the same, or even similar, intentions [as Gambert’s attempt at trademarking the term “SEO”]”.

What does this mean to our search and social media industries?

As the search and social media landscapes continue to evolve and are increasingly relying on high synergy between the two, this news could have been incredibly problematic to the industry.  Many arguments can be made about:

  • The broad nature of the terms,
  • Inability for others to promote internal and/or external service offerings such as (conferences, events, groups, etc.),
  • Loss of business and revenues of those in the industry who have previously invested in the term
    • Traffic to site that drove visitors via “Search and Social” term
    • Do these events pose a potential to be a monopoly of the industry down the road?

I thought Jenn’s closing remarks were particularly interesting, so I am quoting them below to help frame the discussion as well as her overall intentions with the service mark:

  • Does this mean that my event won’t be able to be duplicated? By no means does this protect the unique format I have created, which still leaves me nervous as I see events duplicating the format already.
  • Does this mean that no one can have a conference called “Search and Social”?  Technically, no they cannot – but I’m a pretty reasonable person and am happy working with others that would like to use the phrase. In fact, Rob Garner and myself just worked out an agreement for his book “Search and Social which is coming out November 6, 2012. In fact, he’ll be speaking at Search and Social Hawaii 2013, and we’ll be handing out copies of his book to all of the attendees. (Rob let us know this comment in response to Jenn’s above statement: Just want to clarify some of the facts here. I do not have any agreement with the person mentioned above, contrary to what is stated. I will not be speaking at this conference, and there will be no books handed out. As I have stated to this person in what I thought was a private email conversation, “search and social” is a generic term. Again, no deal or agreement was made. Thanks, Rob)
  • Does is mean that no can can define their event using “search and social” as a description?  Gosh no… I want this industry to use the two as a cohesive means to market their businesses. SEO’s should be using social, social media professionals should know SEO, and let’s not forget that SEM and PPC have morphed into social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin and any SEM would be crazy not to be utilizing them.Just as the song “Happy Birthday” is sung by millions all over the world, the rights belong to Time Warner, but no one is going to come barging down your door if you start signing.


Please tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.  What do you think of Jenn’s response?


Side note:  Jenn, thank you for taking the time to respond – it is greatly appreciated!



Comments are closed.