I recently became aware of a plugin using the name wp-Member. This has come to my attention in the form of support issues posted in the wordpress.org forum and tagged wp-members (my plugin). “[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 my WP-Members plugin, 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.
WP-Members vs. wp-Member
To make this as clear as possible, I will use the names specifically as they are marketed. 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, the wp-Member plugin is a commercial plugin from SmartMediaPro. It is neither free nor open source. The issues that have been posted in the wordpress.org forums seem to stem from the fact that they require the installation of ionCube, a tool for encrypting php source code.
It is very clear that these two names amount to what is known in trademark law as “confusing similarity.” A similar concept is “likelihood of confusion.” It should be obvious that, since these two products are active in the same marketplace, there is most certainly likelihood of confusion and confusing similarity.
Date of First Use
In order to emphasize that my date of first use of the name WP-Members precedes that of SmartMediaPro’s wp-Member, I have, where possible, referenced third party links for date claims. I find this to be more accurate and reliable than the timestamp 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 (or wp-Member). The May 31, 2006 beta release announcement is not only documented on my blog, but also documented by third party archive.org. The plugin’s page was first bookmarked by a user on bookmarking site delicious.com June 27, 2006 and listed in the WordPress Codex as early as July 13, 2006 as cached at archive.org. WP-Members was approved and added to the the official wordpress.org repository on 12/15/2007 as documented in WordPress’s subversion tracking.
In contrast, SmartMediaPro announced their release of wp-Member v1.1 on wp-member.com on August 27, 2008. That seems to be the earliest post on the blog. The domain was registered on July 7, 2008 (they also registered wp-members.com in 2010). I cannot find a commercial use of the name prior to 2008.
If that is the case, it places my first use of WP-Members a full 2 years prior to their release and my inclusion in the wordpress.org plugin repository 7 months prior to their domain name purchase (the earliest date).
While this confusion does hurt both parties, I am doing what I can to create separation. Understand that I have absolutely no relationship with SmartMediaPro nor the plugin wp-Member. Additionally, based what I have outlined above, I do not believe that SmartMediaPro has a legitimate claim to the name WP-Members.
Although a commercial, pro version is in development, The Original WP-Members will remain a free product and will continue to be open source. If the WP-Members that you are using was not free and is not open source, it’s not the original and official version.