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Comcast Paid Up for Fancast Name

In mid-2006, when Comcast settled on the name for Fancast -- an entertainment-oriented Internet site it expects to launch this summer -- the company evidently didn’t realize that a small Web-development firm was already using the moniker.

To get the trademark rights Comcast paid a “significant” sum to the Dallas-based firm, Big in Japan, according to one of the firm’s top executives, Alex Muse, who said his title is “social ninja.”

When asked about the claim, Comcast declined to comment.

Muse said Comcast contacted him in October 2006 and demanded that his outfit stop using the Fancast name. Big in Japan -- a division of 40-person information-technology-services company Architel -- specializes in creating social-networking applications.

The previous month, Big in Japan launched an interactive-podcast service called Fancast for FX original series Nip/Tuck. Using a regular telephone, the service allows fans to submit comments about the show -- which are then posted to the site -- or pose questions to the show’s cast members and creators.

Comcast filed a trademark application for Fancast in August 2006, but Big in Japan was using the name since at least June of that year, when Muse demonstrated the podcasting service at a Microsoft-sponsored conference.

“Comcast called us and said, ‘You can’t do this,’” Muse said. “I said, ‘Well, yes, I can. I’ve been using this before you filed your intent to use it.’”

Earlier this year, according to Muse, the parties reached a settlement. Comcast paid cash -- Muse said the amount is confidential -- and provided some TV and online advertising inventory to Big in Japan. According to Muse, the group hasn’t taken Comcast up on the offer to place advertising.

Big in Japan agreed to change the name of the service, which is now called FanPodCast. According to a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing, Big in Japan abandoned claims to the Fancast trademark Jan. 30.

In addition to Nip/Tuck, Big in Japan provides interactive-podcasting services for other original FX shows, including The Riches, The Shield, Rescue Me and Dirt.

For Comcast, Fancast.com represents a significant online initiative. The site’s goal is to let anyone find TV shows, movie and other content -- on cable, on the Internet, on DVDs or in theaters.

The operator in April announced that it would acquire Fandango, a movie-ticketing site with capabilities that will be integrated into Fancast. The Fancast site is also supposed to provide access to full-length television shows and video clips from NBC, Fox and other networks through a content-distribution deal Comcast negotiated with the online-video joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp.