Could OpenAI Destroy your Company for using 'ChatGPT' or 'GPT'?

Could OpenAI Destroy your Company for using 'ChatGPT' or 'GPT'?

OpenAI delivers a service. Like all service providers they're free to chose who they deliver their service to. As a service provider you are not obligated to deliver your services to anyone you do not want to deliver said services to.

We have turned down clients ourselves whom we for some reasons did not consider to be aligned with "our moral and ethical foundation". I am not going to provide examples here, but I assume you can easily come up with some of your own if you squeeze your brain a little bit.

For us this is fairly easy though, since the first thing we typically do as we onboard a client is to scrape the client's website, which gives us detailed information about the client to an extent difficult for most others to understand unless they've seen it. Basically ...

We see everything ... 😉

So once we've onboarded a client, unless the client fundamentally changes his or her business model, the client is safe, and we will serve the client for as long as the client wants us to serve him or her.

OpenAI's dilemma

OpenAI on the other hand was probably onboarding 1,000,000 "clients" every single day of the week the first couple of months in 2023. For them to study what each of their clients are doing is therefor logistically impossible, implying just because they've let you off the hook for a while, doesn't imply they'll let you off the hook forever.

OpenAI have a Business Terms of Use document that covers usage of their API. This document explicitly says; "you may use our name and marks to describe your use of the Services solely in accordance to our Brand Guidelines". Ignoring their usage of the word "may" instead of "must", this is where it gets interesting, since violating their brand guidelines is a violation of their terms of use - And hence in theory could have your account with OpenAI deleted.

Basically, not following OpenAI's "brand guidelines" might have your OpenAI API account deleted!

How can you describe your product?

The above brand guidelines document again allows you to use in particular "Powered by OpenAI" to describe your product. They even provide a badge for you that you can use. It does however not allow you to use ...

  • "GPT" in your product's name
  • "ChatGPT for xyz"
  • "built with OpenAI"
  • "developed with OpenAI"

Basically, anything that insinuates a partnership with OpenAI might be considered a violation of their brand guidelines. They also do not allow you to use the word "GPT" in your product name. If you for instance create a product and you name it "StudentGPT", then OpenAI might in theory revoke your access to their services. Their argument is "because it can confuse users".

Using the word "GPT" to describe your product or in your product's name, might have OpenAI delete your API account!

Another interesting fact, that caused trouble for us, was that it explicitly says you cannot use the word ChatGPT as a part of your product name or app name. You can find the relevant sections below "Models" in the following document.

Our dilemma

We used to say "ChatGPT-based AI chatbot" to describe our product. This phrase gave us a lot of organic traffic from Google and other search engines. However, their brand guidelines explicitly says you cannot use the word "ChatGPT" in your product or app.

We've since removed the word "ChatGPT" from our product's description, and since our product name is "Magic Cloud", we believe we are on "the inside" as of today. We've not edited our blogs, but if OpenAI employees reads this, and wants us to edit our blogs, please reach out to us and we will of course change these too.

For the record, since none of our partners and clients are using our OpenAI API key, even if we were to lose our API account, it would have no consequences for our customers. For others that are delivering solutions where they're allowing their partners and clients to use their API key, this could have consequences also for clients of this company.

If you are relying upon a service that's using "GPT" or "ChatGPT" in its name, and/or product description, you might lose access to said service, because your service provider did not follow OpenAI's brand guidelines

The problem

The problem is that as far as I know, every single product vendor out there utilizing OpenAI's APIs to deliver products are more or less in violation of OpenAI's "brand guidelines". If you don't believe me, go to ProductHunt and do a search for "ChatGPT"

Some of these products have thousands of likes, comments, and users. Most of these are using their own API key to deliver these products. All of them are in violation of OpenAI's Terms of Service, indirectly, by violating OpenAI's "Brand Guidelines".

A guesstimate would be that 99% of every single OpenAI API service provider is somehow violating OpenAI's terms of service

Conclusion

IF OpenAI starts actually enforcing these rules, we might see thousands of companies going out of business, because they've built their entire business model on top of an authentication token they created inside their API accounts at OpenAI's website. As these companies drops, their entire base of clients will lose access to their service too.

This does not have anything to do with trademarks or IP law in any ways, and is simply a "Terms of Usage" issue - However, if OpenAI do not enforce these rules, but simply let things slide, they've implicitly waved their rights to enforce them in the future, and they might no longer have a basis to claim their own trademark, since not enforcing trademarks might in theory result in loss of trademark.

You would be wise to assume that OpenAI will start enforcing these brand guidelines soon ...

For instance, when Oxford Dictionary tried to add the word "Google" into their dictionary some 15 years ago, Google sent them a cease and desist letter, since turning "Google" into an official verb, might in theory have Google lose their own trademark.

I am not a lawyer, and of course, you might want to consult with somebody else on this matter - However, you don't need to be a lawyer to read and understand their "Terms of Service" document. That document is not a legal document, it's just a document outlining who OpenAI wants to do business with - And they're of course free to do business with whomever they want to do business with, and avoid doing business with anyone they do not want to do business with.

So if you've got a company using OpenAI, and you're using any combination of the following in your product name, and/or your product description, you might want to reconsider ...

  • GPT
  • ChatGPT
  • created with
  • developed with
  • Etc, etc, etc ...

Read their full brand guidelines below ...

Thomas Hansen

Thomas Hansen I am the CEO and Founder of AINIRO.IO, Ltd. I am a software developer with more than 25 years of experience. I write about Machine Learning, AI, and how to help organizations adopt said technologies. You can follow me on LinkedIn if you want to read more of what I write.

Published 8. Jan 2024