Trademark SNAFU Shows That Sometimes, It's Better To Be Big Than Right - InformationWeek

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2/9/2009
04:52 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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Trademark SNAFU Shows That Sometimes, It's Better To Be Big Than Right

At bMighty.com, we like to say that technology doesn't just level the playing field for small and midize companies, it can actually tilt it in their favor. Well, that may be true for technology, but InformationWeek Senior VP Bob Evans describes a case that demonstrates when it comes to regulatory and legal matters, size still matters.

At bMighty.com, we like to say that technology doesn't just level the playing field for small and midize companies, it can actually tilt it in their favor. Well, that may be true for technology, but InformationWeek Senior VP Bob Evans describes a case that demonstrates when it comes to regulatory and legal matters, size still matters.Evans got the story from tells the tale this way:

Nordstrom, the retailer with the glorious public image, is using a screwup by the federal government's Patent and Trademark Office to overwhelm a tiny online retailer via courtoom challenges that to date have cost the two women who own the small business $70,000. Reflecting the riskiness of IP issues, they tell the PTO, "Your office has ensured our demise."

According to the TechKnowledge newsletter from the libertarian Cato Institute, "Beckons, an organic yoga and lifestyle clothing business founded in 2006 by two women in Colorado. Around the time they began selling their 'Beckons' clothing line in July of that year, Ann Sather and Becky Prater filed for a trademark on the word "Beckons" associated with pants, shirts, T-shirts, shorts, dresses, sweatpants, and jackets. PTO registered their trademark in June 2007."

After Beckons filed, but before the application was published, Nordstrom "filed applications for a trademark on the word 'Beckon,' planning to use it as a house brand on women's fashion apparel and accessories."

Somehow, the examining attorney missed the fact that "Beckons" already was a registered trademark associated with clothing. He approved Nordstrom's applications for publication.

But instead of recognizing that the trademark was taken, Nordstrom's lawyers have kept up a drumbeat of legal motions and filings that will take at least until next year to resolve!

The bottom line? Just because your company is in the right and has the law on your side, you still have to be prepared to defend yourself and your intellectual property against the big boys. Good luck with that...

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