Another Person No One’s Heard Of Tries To Trademark SEO

HuoMah Blog discovered that yet another person is trying to claim a trademark on the term SEO, search engine optimization. Clinton Cimring of a company called “Search Engine Partner” filed a trademark application with United States Patent and Trademark Office on January 5, 2009. The filing claims first use SEO as a trademark was on September 23, 1996 and first use in commerce was on September 24, 1999.

This is the second time in about two years that someone with no general stature, reputation or well-known and documented history has tried to claim a trademark on SEO. In 2008, Jason Gambert gained attention in trying to trademark the term. That resulted in plenty of criticism of his move as well as people asking, “Jason who?”

Who actually coined the term and first used it in commerce? To our knowledge, Bob Heyman has the longest-standing claim. He said he invented the term in 1995 and documented his claim in 1997. Our Who coined the term SEO? article from Heyman covers this more. Unlike the other two people, Heyman has never tried to claim a trademark against for the term.

Postscript: Links to the trademark expire after a certain period time. To find this trademark, search for the serial number 77643198 at

Postscript #2: It seems like he is trying to trademark the acronym SEO for Strategically Elevating Optimization and not Search Engine Optimization.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Legal: Trademarks | SEM Industry: Community | SEM Industry: General | SEO: General | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • Nordstrom

    I understand the desire to try and trademark the term as it would be very lucrative. But I find claims to have invented or coined the term laughable.

    In 1993 I was working at the San Diego Supercomputer Center when a researcher in the office next to me showed me how to access the Internet on a Moziac text browser. She was a Biologist and a hard core researcher working with other Universities around the world.. Jane I believe was her name. After a bit of browsing around other university sites finding research data of interest to her, she said something like “Yes and we can tag the data seen on these Layers or stacks so that they can be easily found in a search, the better we tag the data the better we can find the data, it’s called Search optimization.” Another guy who headed up Database research, Chris Daharsh gave a presentation on this subject in early 1994.

    Okay so this was before Google, Before Alta Vista, before Looksmart and the rest I give you that, so they were not talking specifically about SEO as we know it today. However the concept and term for Search Optimization was already being batted about by MANY people, including Jane and that was 1993. I am positive this conversation and term was used hundreds of times a day at SDSC and thousands of times around the world at other universities by other researchers.

    Any single person or company claiming they coined the term is just plain silly.

  • Michael Martinez

    One of the supporting documents for the claim is an invoice dated January 10, 1997 claiming 30 keyword SEO work for a domain,

    How do you optimize for a domain that won’t be registered for another 7 months?

  • Duane Forrester

    “Postscript #2: It seems like he is trying to trademark the acronym SEO for Strategically Elevating Optimization and not Search Engine Optimization.”

    …oh yes, because HIS version of SEO is ever-so explanatory. Holy crap – does he work with elevators and escalators?

    IIRC, there’s a word for people like this…lemme see… oh, right… DOLT.

  • kaylasmith

    I’ve worked for Search Engine Partner since 2007 and worked for ICG in the 90′s. We did actually use the term SEO back then. While everyone was referring to the service as search engine placement, we called it web site optimization, so the slogan was strategically elevating optimization.

    I’m also pretty sure Danny Sullivan was the first to use the term SEO in the sense of search engine optimization, although I know he doesn’t want to take credit. The reason you’ve probably never heard of Clinton is that he was in the Marines prior to forming Search Engine Partner fighting for your freedom!

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