At Mozilla, we put privacy first. We do this in our own products with features like tracking protection. We also promote privacy in our public advocacy. A key feature of our privacy work is a commitment to reducing the amount of user data that is collected in the first place. Focusing on the data you really need lowers risk and promotes trust. Our Lean Data Practices page describes this framework and includes tools and tips for staying lean. For years, our legal and policy teams have held workshops around the world, advising businesses on how they can use lean data practices to reduce their data footprint and improve the privacy of their products and services.
Mozilla is not the only advocate for lean data. Many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many others use the term “lean data” to refer to the principle of minimizing data collection. Given this, we were very surprised to receive a demand letter from lawyers representing LeanData, Inc. claiming that Mozilla’s Lean Data Practices page infringes the company’s supposed trademark rights. We have responded to this letter to stand up for everyone’s right to use the words “lean data” in digital advocacy.
Our response to LeanData explains that it cannot claim ownership of a descriptive term such as “lean data.” In fact, when we investigated its trademark filings we discovered that the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had repeatedly rejected the company’s attempts to register a wordmark that covered the term. The USPTO has cited numerous sources, including the very Mozilla page LeanData accused of infringing, as evidence that “lean data” is descriptive. Also, the registration for LeanData’s logo cited in the company’s letter to Mozilla was recently cancelled (and it wouldn’t cover the words “lean data” in any event). LeanData’s demand is without merit.
In a follow-up letter, LeanData, Inc. acknowledged that it does not have any currently registered marks on “lean data.” LeanData’s lawyer suggested, however, the company will continue to pursue its application for a “LeanData” wordmark. We believe the USPTO should, and will, continue to reject this application. Important public policy discussions must be free from intellectual property overreach. Scholars, engineers, and commentators should be allowed to use a descriptive term like “lean data” to describe a key digital privacy principle.