Open Source “Baby Blue” Project Could Finally Kill the Bluebook

Last year, we speculated about whether we might soon see an open-source Bluebook, as the folks that publish it had forgotten to renew the copyright on an older edition, which opened the door to a free electronic version.1 It looks like that will soon be a reality.

The latest turn came this month when open-records activist Carl Malamud tweeted about the coming release of “Baby Blue,” the name that he and his project partner New York University law professor Christopher Sprigman are calling their rival guide.

You will not be surprised to learn that the Bluebook publishers promptly hired a big fancy white shoe IP law firm to send an angry letter to Malamud and Sprigman arguing, in effect, that the Bluebook publishers basically own the word “blue” in this context.

[I]t is our client’s position that the title “BabyBlue,” or any title consisting of or comprising the word “Blue,” when used on or in connection with your work, would so resemble the BLUEBOOK Marks as to be likely, to cause confusion, mistake, and/or deception…Accordingly, and to avoid any risk of consumer confusion, my client respectfully demands that you agree (i) not to use the title or name “BabyBlue,” or any other title or name including the word “blue,” for your work…

The response from Sprigman can best be described as “LOL, nope.”

“The idea they own the name ‘blue’ for a manual for legal citations is ridiculous,” he told Law Blog. Baby Blue he said is also based in part on a 1958 edition of the Bluebook that has fallen into the public domain.

Anything that results in a simplification of the book’s Byzantine structure – or better still, a citation generator, the likes of which already exist for other citation schemes – is something that every lawyer should get behind.


  1. A consortium consisting of Harvard Law Review Association, Columbia Law Review Association, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and the Yale Law Journal 

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  • FreddieKrueger

    Apparently the white shoe IP firm doesn’t understand the proper use of a comma!

  • Frank Bennett

    Please note that a platform able to generate correct citations to legal materials – across multiple jurisdictions – already exists. https://juris-m.github.io Juris-M is a third-party project that leverages the Zotero code base, and like Zotero it supports context-sensitive formatting of citations in word-processed documents. I salute the “Baby Blue” project, and look forward to supporting the new guide in Juris-M.

  • “BLUEBOOK” is a registered trademark (http://goo.gl/EZoHeX) for both a “style manual for legal citation” and for “providing an on-line publication in the nature of a manual in the field of style for legal citation.” So, yes, Harvard, et al., can and do own exclusive rights to that name. Is “Baby Blue” confusingly similar? I think so. Plus, there seems to be some confusion that this is a copyright matter. Who cares if the 1958 edition is in the public domain (a copyright term)? This appears to be a pure trademark beef.

  • FlameCCT

    Perhaps they should name it No Longer Blue Book as those using the new style will no longer be blue from having to look through 500+ pages.