OA’s Seedy Side — and TMs

Think that new OA publisher has nice offices? And are the bioRxiv and medRxiv brands trademarked?

This post covers two unrelated topics — the strange locations profiteering OA publishers use, and trademarks for bio/medRxiv.

OA’s Seedy Side

I was reminded yesterday of one aspect of OA publishing I haven’t ever talked about — it’s what I’ll call the “Google Maps” dimension.

This is what you experience plugging the addresses of various profiteering OA publishers into Google Maps, and then dragging the little dude to the blue street in order to see what things look like at eye level.

Here’s what you are likely to see, in order of prevalence:

  1. Apartment buildings
  2. Strip malls
  3. Personal homes
  4. Cheap office rental spaces
  5. Hole-in-the-wall law offices

You never see nice office buildings with adequate parking and green spaces.

The addresses seem to be some combination of seedy, cheap, and available — but you need a street address to look legitimate while you scam money.

The OA world is full of shady operators using storefronts, mail drops, apartments, and homes to create the illusion of substantial physical offices.

It’s one dimension of profiteering OA that has been consistent so far, and one I think it’s worth keeping it in mind. Too often, we forget how OA publishing has degraded so much of what we once aspired to do — including having decent offices in nice places.


In reporting yesterday how bioRxiv’s logo and name were used for commercial purposes — without any indication that a trademark is being used — I was curious to see if trademarks exist around bioRxiv and medRxiv in general.

The short answer? Yes.

According to public records, bioRxiv and medRxiv are registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as service marks. The words themselves are trademarked, but there is no indication that the designs with the stylized Chi symbol have been trademarked. Both registrations state, “The mark consists of standard characters without claim to any particular font style, size, or color.”

While bioRxiv emanates solely from Cold Spring Harbor Labs (CSHL), medRxiv is sponsored by BMJ, Yale University, and CSHL — yet, CSHL is listed as the sole owner of both trademarks.

Both registrations also list the same law firm in Concord, MA, as the corresponding attorney.

Despite having two registered trademarks, CSHL has done nothing to signal this to the public. There are no statements about trademarks on either site, and both logos fail to use the registration symbol (®) to protect any aspect of the registered marks.

The uses in the cases shown yesterday are not infringement per se, but CSHL has two registered trademarks it is not marking clearly as registered, and which are being used on the market without clear indications of same. The proliferation of other “Rxiv” constructions makes me wonder how diluted their trademarks have become.

It was interesting to find out these are registered trademarks, and the CSHL owns both.

Based on their lack of clearly identifying their marks at registered, their lack of registration for the stylized versions, and the dilution the main distinctive element (“Rxiv”) is experiencing, they aren’t the greatest owners ever.