K2C 1N5

11 of the 17 years I’ve been in Canada I’ve resided at this postal code: “K2C 1N5.” It is the only otherwise meaningless alphanumeric string I remember most clearly, having written it over the years on countless letters, web forms, tax forms, applications and the like. As of today I can no longer call it my ‘postal code.’ Because as of today I have been personally sued in federal court over the use of the trademarked word combination: ‘postal code.’ So, I am taking the personal decision to just call it my ‘zip code.’ You’ll still know what I mean.

Sounds incredible right? Wrong!

The Canadapost corporation has just amended their statement of claim against my company, geocoder.ca, to name me personally as a defendant in their ongoing legal action to assert copyright over everything ‘postal code.’ (Both the Amended Statement of Claim and the Amended Statement of Defense will be posted here soon).

These people do move slowly (it has been over a year since their original claim) but they do just when I thought they were ready to drop their claims, which were ridiculous to begin with. It is funny because just a few days ago I was reading in the news about the financial woes of the crown corporation that enjoys the position of monopoly in certain areas. It is also fitting though for a mismanaged company to spend their last dollars on lawyers, we’ve seen it before (remember SCO?)

Other than filling my mailbox with junk mail, misusing the legal system to pursue absurd claims appears to be to be the way those overpaid pencil sharpeners see as the way out of the woods.

Maybe they envision a world where every website that mentions the word ‘postal code’ or uses the postal code to identify a location, pays a fee to the corporation. They want me to be the first one to do so.

They even extended their claim to other websites I own, namely foodpages.ca, to sieze any profits this website makes by having people type various location entities (address, intersection, city, postal code) to find a nearby restaurant. Perhaps in their ideal world, these profits belong to them because of the ‘postal code’ option.

Alas, there are thousands of websites that let users look up information associated with a postal code. Some of them use the geocoder.ca free XML port. There are lots of other alternatives too. Those websites would operate just fine if they stop accepting postal codes mind you. The user would simply have to type in a few more letters te enter their address instead.

In my case though they overdo it a bit. The revised statement of claim also mentions as targets the so called “Ruci Websites”, (FoodPages.ca, FoodHouse.com, AussieSalon.com, Yelpus.com, DineHere.us, FoodPages.us and SalonPages.com)

This is just absurdly funny. Their $1000 an hour lawyers can not even muster the competence of a simple whois query which would reveal that at least three of these websites have nothing to do with me, indeed they are not websites at all, just domain names registered by some unknown spammer and plastered with ads. I just verified that.

Maybe someone at Canadapost just heard the proverbial sentence that “there is money on the internet” and they unleashed their lawyers to get it. Maybe they think that their ‘postal code’ (if the courts decide it is ‘theirs’ in the first place) is the backbone of the internet and these websites can not exist without this ingredient. So, they must pay the ‘postal code’ tax!

Seeing no end to this madness I am taking the following preemptive action. I am renaming the ‘postal code’ to ‘zip code’ on every website, blog, application or other publication I write.

I will also kindly ask the federal government to stop asking me about my postal code on tax forms, and any other communications they have with me. Due to copyright reasons I might not be able to answer that question and I also hold them responsible for bringing this situation to a head.

Finally, like I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, it is unfortunate that the corporation is facing financial problems. It is tough being short of a $1 billion a year. They will never get it from me though. From a very very large number of people in my position, maybe, but I doubt it. Taxpayers who cover their $1b shortfall, CIPPIC who is representing me pro bono, myself and those who have donated to my legal defense fund will bear the cost of such legal action.

A company founded and still operating on the mentality of the pre-internet age, or even the pre-transistor age, has to understand the realities of new technologies. Starting with the simplest fact that a ‘postal code’ is not solely for the purpose of sending mail via Canadapost’ as they claim.  There are opportunities for this old company to make money in this new environment and they are much better positioned than a one-man company like geocoder.ca, to do so.

I do not know who advises the Canada Post CEO on all these matters, but I do have one advice for him. Fire them!

Or better yet. Fire Yourself!

Location Intelligence @Ottawa IT Camp 2013

I’m giving a talk on location intelligence at the Ottawa IT Camp 2013 (IT Pro track) at Algonquin College. I’ll be talking about a location entity recognition engine I’ve been developing over the past year and some practical applications built on top of it.