Possible legal troubles?

I own my own domain and maintain my own mail server. Since setting it up, I made it a habit to, when asked for an e-mail from any web site, use that company's name as the to address. Since any e-mail sent to my domain goes to me, as far as my mail server is concerned, I could use anything. Using the company's name is beneficial to me for two reasons. One, I know immediately who is sending me the e-mail. Two, if said company ever has their e-mail list stolen, or if they ever sell it to someone else, I can block that e-mail address, and I know with whom I need to update my contact info with a new address (or with whom I will never do business again). Either way, my correspondence with anyone else is unaffected.

Anyway, occasionally a company will get a little nervous seeing their name used as a personal e-mail address. My wife had one sewing website ask her to change her address, and she just made up a new one to avoid confrontations. Me, I'm a little more stubborn.

I received this letter in the mail about a month ago. For the moment, I am obscuring their name, because I'm not looking for trouble. But I thought this was worth chronicling, in case it turns ugly. This is the text of the letter, with all spelling and gramatical mistakes as they appear in print (with the exception of content in angle brackets).

August 13, 2004

Dear <our names>:

The Corporation has recently learned that your e-mail address is <company>@<mydomain.net>. The purpose of this correspondence is to ask for your cooperation as it relates to changing your e-mail address.

To begin, <company> Corporation nor any of our affiliates or Sister Companies will not allow the use of any of its trade names (company names), trademarks (product names), designs, or symbols by any person, including a <company>-affiliated <list of affiliates> without our permission. We, along with our affiliates and Sister Companies, will not give authorization for use of our trade names, trademarks, designs or symbols in a manner that is likely to cause confusion as to it's source. It is important to understand that we take strong measures to protect our marks from being used without our permission or used in a fashion that is likely to cause confusion. We believe your e-mail address can and will cause confusion in the market place. In view of this, we are asking that you change your e-mail address.

We would respectfully request your written assurance with in the next 20 days that you understand and will comply with the Rules of Conduct and our request. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.



<name>, Supervisor
Business Conduct & Rules Administration Department
Office Phone <phone>
Fax <phone>
Email <e-mail>

I sent the following reply, along with a copy of their original letter, to the address that was printed on their letterhead (no return address was typed, just the phone numbers and e-mail address):

August 19, 2004

<Supervisor's name and address>

Re: E-mail Address (File <xxx>)

Dear Mr. <name>:

I am writing in response to your letter of concern over the trademarks held by <company> Corporation and my e-mail address, <company>@<mydomain.net>.  I understand the concern of your corporation and the need to protect its trademarks and their use in the marketplace.  As such, some explanation is in order.

The domain <mydomain.net> is a personal domain, owned, administered, and operated by me personally.  The Mail Exchanger for this domain is configured such that e-mail sent to any and all addresses at <mydomain.net> is delivered to me personally.  As such, the account name "<company>" does not actually exist.

Additionally, the correspondence address <company>@<mydomain.net> has been provided to one and only one business, namely <company> Corporation.  Therefore, correspondence to this address can only come from <company>.  E-mail sent by me or anyone else from my domain does not contain the address <company>@<mydomain.net>.  This cannot cause confusion in the marketplace, nor can it cause confusion as to the source of any message.  In fact, my purpose for providing that address to <company> for correspondence was specifically for the purpose of removing any ambiguity as to a message’s source.

I believe you will find that I am respecting your trademark in this instance.  Since no actual account exists, since only <company> has been provided this correspondence address, and since no e-mail is sent by me with the <company> name, that there is no violation of your property or potential for confusion in any forum, public or private.  As requested, you have my written assurance that I will continue to respect the trademark of <company> Corporation, as I have hitherto done.

A written confirmation of receipt of this letter is requested.


<my name and signature>

enc: copy of original correspondence

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