Statement regarding the use of the name WP-Members by others

Over the past year, I have become aware of a number of plugins using the name WP-Members (or a derivative thereof). This has come to my attention in the form of support issues posted in the wordpress.org forum and tagged wp-members. Often these are the result of unresponsive support and “buyer beware” issues, for example “[Plugin: WP-Members] Broken upon install — support not helpful — don’t buy.”

While that specific post has since been removed at the request of the original poster since it was not in fact referencing WP-Members, it makes evident a more important issue. The plugin this user was actually referencing was not mine, but rather a plugin called wp-Member, offered by SmartMediaPro, and this is not the first occurrence of such confusion.

The Original WP-Members

The original WP-Members is the plugin developed and released by me. It is maintained in the official WordPress Plugin Repository. It is both free and open source. If a user of the forums on wordpress.org tags their post wp-members it will be tagged to my plugin (and my attention). In contrast, these other plugins are commercial in nature and are not open source.  And they are using the same name or a derivative of WP-Members.

It is very clear that this amounts to what is known in trademark law as “confusing similarity.” A similar concept is “likelihood of confusion.”

Date of First Use in Commerce

My date of first use of the name WP-Members precedes that of these commercial vendors.  I have, where possible, referenced third party links for date claims. I find this to be more accurate and reliable than the time stamp on an individual blog.

When the original WP-Members plugin was released publicly, there were no other membership-focused plugins for WordPress of which I am aware, let alone any called WP-Members. ( read the May 31, 2006 beta release announcement | also documented by third party archive.org).  This predates the next earliest subscription/membership type plugin that I know of (WordPres-PayPal Membership) by 6 weeks.

It was first bookmarked on delicious.com on June 27, 2006. WP-Members was approved and added to the the official wordpress.org repository on 12/15/2007 as documented in WordPress’s subversion tracking.

Going Forward

I am doing what I can to create clear separation. Understand that I have absolutely no relationship with these vendors nor their plugins. Additionally, based what I have outlined above, I do not believe they have a legitimate claim to the name WP-Members.  In order to protect my interests and my good name, trademark registration of the name is pending.

Although a commercial, pro version is in development, The Original WP-Members will remain a free product. Both will continue to be open source.  If you didn’t get it from wordpress.org or butlerblog.com/wp-members, it is not the original.

Notes On Specific Products/Sites:

SmartMediaPro / wp-Member

In summary, I view SmartMediaPro to be infringing on our mark.  The biggest problem here is that it causes confusion with users in the marketplace and in the WordPress forums.  The official WP-Members is open source and free and is available here.

I have a full statement on the product known as wp-Member that can be read in its entirety here.

Infringement of the Mark to Fraudulently Sell Another Product

This one is more frustrating.  Caveat emptor! There is a specific person holding themselves out to be WP-Members under the following names that is actually fraudulently selling a version of YourMembers and calling it WP-Members. [Statement by Cambridge New Media Services] Please note that this person has absolutely no  association with me whatsoever.  Additionally, since the product is obviously a rip-off of someone else’s work, the plugin is not the same either:

* www.wpmembershipservice.com
* www.promembershipsite.com
* Possibly others

Get Fresh Content Delivered

Join and get free content delivered automatically each time we publish.

Comments

  1. says

    Hello ,
    I’m verry sorry, that you’ve got so much problems with the name of your product.
    I’m a german guy (with bad english) and find your work great. I got a private homepage (only german) and I have customize your program for me. Now, there are some friends of me, which want this customize for themselves. I called this version WP Members GER for myself. But I think, I can’t take this name for the versions my friends want to get. After reading this Post, I think you don’t want it to. Is the following acceptable or not?
    I call the Plugin “user-flo[w]-plug ger”. I put in clearly description, that this plugin is a customized of WP Members(TM), let in all links to your orginal, the donation-button e.g., but also put in links to my supportsite e.g..
    Then i will making a website, where everyone can download the source code. I don’t change anything of your copyrightnotice, but i want to complete it with my copyrightnotice for the customize (german language).
    If I get some money from anyone for my work, I will donate you, but at the moment I’m very poor …..
    Best Wishes
    Flo[w]

    • says

      Thanks Flo for the comments. I understand what you are trying to do, but it would be more appropriate to work within the internationalization framework. Otherwise, you are essentially creating a trunk in the project for which it will be difficult to fully support.

      I admit that I’ve been somewhat behind on internationalizing the plugin, but this will make it easier for you to keep up with further developments of the plugin. There is currently no German translation, so we definitely could use your help. The current 2.4 beta version has a POT file to work from.

      I would highly suggest working within this process instead. Here are some links with some insightful info (although some of it is more related to the actual preparation of the plugin for supporting translation, this should help get you moving down the right path).

      WordPress Localization
      WordPress Plugin Internationalization
      WordPress Plugin localization using Poedit
      Poedit

      Anyone familiar with the process, feel free to chime in here… ;-)

  2. says

    I had a poor experience with smartmediapro.com and I question how legit they are. If their source is encrypted with ioncube, how do we know that they’re not ripping of some/most/all of your code? Their over-abundance of legal docs and language all over their site…you gotta wonder if they’re being over-protective for a reason. Have you made any progress with them?

    • says

      Hi Kristopher, thanks for your comments.

      You are correct – I don’t know if they are ripping off any of my code since it’s encrypted. That also puts them at odds with the GPL licensing of WordPress itself.

  3. Ineedhelp says

    Hello, I need help on this plugin for the login issues. I had set it and run it successfully. I had read the documentation but still cannot get the page login to work. My WP is version 3 and up. Once clicked the login, it bring me to a blank page. Seem anything mistake i done on permalink? It just a post I try the login feature(I can login without problem at localhost/wordpress/wp-admin.

  4. says

    I am building an adult member ship website using our plugin on WPMU, i want to make $ from website, how i can use ur plugin to make money from members ?

    please contact on mail…

    Thanks

    Ranga

    • says

      Ranga – there are several ways to use the WP-Members plugin for a paid membership site. But I am unwilling to be of assistance for an adult site so don’t ask.

  5. Donny Burnside says

    I personally find your use of a trademark for this name to be disgusting. Not only is it a form of bullying, but you are attempting to move alternative plugins to one side in order to replace them with your upcoming ‘pro’ version. Your motives are sketchy at best and I will not use your plugin based on this moral conflict.

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Donny. I’d like to know what you find “disgusting” about it. How is that a form of bullying? If anything, this entire post and process was actually a response to bullying that was directed at me.

      My plugin was never commercial in the beginning – it was a project that I was committed to and was freely available to the WordPress community. I put thousands of hours into both development and support. Then along came a guy that wanted to leverage a commercial product based on the same name. The “sketchy motives” were his and if you bothered to read my post, it created confusion in the marketplace. The wordpress.org support forums at that time were receiving posts for support tagging my plugin with negative reviews and complaints about the plugin not working that, when researched, were someone else’s plugin that was using the same name.

      Beyond that, there was a second individual that actually ripped off someone else’s commercial plugin and was trying to sell it as his own under the same name as my plugin. That created quite a stir when people were trying to get support for a product they paid for only to find out that the “developer” didn’t have the ability to support it (because it wasn’t his) and when they came to me in confusion thinking it was actually my plugin only to find out that the plugin and developer in question was not me.

      So at that point, I had no choice but to defend my online reputation and protect what I was doing.

      If you don’t use my plugin, that’s OK. Since it is freely available on wordpress.org, you are free to make that choice. And I don’t fault you for making a decision to use it or not to use it. That’s your business.

      What I do take issue with is your assertion that my “motives are sketchy at best.”

      First of all, if I did have sketchy motives, I would not have lasted in the WP community for 10 years – which is longer than most people have known what the term WordPress even means. WP-Members would not have continued to have the success that it has if my credibility was called into account. I work on this project with a high degree of concern for the community at large, and for you to suggest otherwise is patently offensive.

      Second, if you bothered to look at the date on this post, you would see that it is quite a few years old. Instead of a “Pro” version, I’ve continued to offer the same core plugin for free as I always have. And that free plugin has continued to be developed and supported with new features on a regular basis. Instead of a “Pro” version, I made the decision to offer a premium level of support. At some point, one becomes a victim of their own success. That was the case here. There simply was no way for me to continue offer a high level of support to the number of people that requested it. I simply had to move high level support to a premium model.

      You can think that’s “disgusting,” but this plugin would have ceased to exist otherwise. So the users who only ever download the plugin for free from wordpress.org are receiving a benefit from the users who pay for support. In business parlance, that is what is known as the “Freemium” model. In this case, 10% of the users pay which results in a benefit to the other 90%.

      You are free to choose which of those two groups to belong to. But don’t insult my credibility and ethics.

Join in the discussion