The extremely wide trademark description is also the problem.
Igmar Palsenberg

That’s trademarks for you, companies will apply for a trademark that covers as wide a scope as they can. It’s easy for people to say “well Kik is just a messenger app so this is ridiculous” but that presumes that 1) the trademark system is designed to support such a designation and 2) that Kik is never going to seek to expand beyond that very specific role.

Whether there is precedent of companies disrespecting the rights and ownership or developers or not doesn’t excuse Azer’s actions in the least. He was approached on a one-on-one ‘let’s make a reasonable arrangement’ level and his actions were completely out of line. As others have noted, if he’d elaborated further in his initial response instead of giving a childish “I’m already using this toy so go find your own” response Bob from Kik’s response would likely have been far different. Instead, he put Bob in the position of having to try to persuade him to play ball by pointing out that Kik had the prior claim and that he was trying to reach an amicable arrangement without involving lawyers.

A lot of people are ignoring what Bob was doing FOR Azer in light of the ‘righteous’ indignation they’re enjoying blaming the big corporation for ‘picking on the little guy’. In effect, Bob was trying to save Azer a lot of money (lawyers are expensive, Kik’s end of this would most likely consist of using up some hours they’ve paid for on retainer anyhow) and put Azer in the driver’s seat in terms of defining how the transition would be handled. Instead of lashing out like a child he should have taken a breath and looked at the situation objectively. There is no world in which the response Azer gave to the dose of reality delivered by Bob, coupled with a generous offer to work something out to their mutual benefit, could result in a positive outcome and Azer clearly lacked the maturity to deal with the matter in a mature and well-reasoned manner.

As far as NPM goes, it’s easy for people to sit around and judge them harshly for how this was handled but from what we’ve seen of Azer I don’t see any outcome of this situation where he wouldn’t have pulled this self-righteous indignant nonsense. Even if NPM had entered into a mediatory dialog between the three parties, the outcome would always have included Azer surrendering the kik name.

Kik has a relatively bulletproof case of trademark infringement, and whether EU law would support that or not is, frankly, irrelevant; NPM is headquartered in the US, US trademark law applies, end of story. Could NPM have handled it a little better by asking Azer to surrender it willingly? Yes. But, frankly, Azer had that same offer made on multiple occasions, most likely CCing NPM per the dispute resolution policy, and spat in the face of it so I can’t honestly fault NPM too greatly for deciding decisive action needed to be taken.

Blaming this on NPM being a commercial entity is, frankly, a red herring. It doesn’t matter what kind of entity it is, if there is a legal entity tied to it then it’s subject to suit and will take steps to avoid such. As noted, even self-hosting carries with it the exact same problems, if you’re infringing on a trademark companies aren’t going to put themselves on the firing line for you, and even if you could somehow serve yourself as your own ISP, Registrar, etc. (say you owned Google (Alphabet) outright or something, used Google Fiber, registered via Google Domains, etc.) they’d just come after you as an individual. And, like Bob noted, it’s not a matter of whether they wanted to or not, it’s a matter of trademark law being so screwed up that, being aware of the existence of a kik project in the space their trademark covers they would be compelled to defend the mark to create a precedent of defense and avoid creating an opposite precedent.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Jonathan Bartus’s story.