IP Bullies and Trademarks
I’ve covered the other types of intellectual property bullies Patent Bullies and Copyright Trolls. Now it’s time to go over trademark bullies. The biggest difference in trademark law is that you do not need a registration to enforce your rights. However, you do need to use your brand (company name, mark, logo, tagline, etc) to enforce your rights. There are two main purposes behind trademark law:
- To protect consumers
- To foster commerce.
We want consumers to clearly know who is offering a product or service by the branding items placed on it. From a fostering commerce perspective, we want companies to know that they alone can profit from the branded product they develop and promote.
Avoid Confusing the Marketplace
My law firm is named Initiating Protection. People who see this should expect to find services offered by me or others at my firm. People who search for this should only find me or others at my firm. If my competitor used Initiating Protection or a confusingly similar name, this would confuse the marketplace. Consumers seeing a similar/identical brand used on related services would incorrectly assume my firm was behind those services. The law allows me to make the competitor stop using the name and take the profits earned by the competing firm from using my name.
Similarly to patents and copyrights, you can sell or license your trademark rights in your brand. It was these licenses or transfers that caused the “bully” situations in the patent and copyrights scenarios. Generally, this is not the case in trademark scenarios since you must be using your brand to enforce your rights.
What are Trademark Bullies?
The primary cause of trademark bullying comes from companies over enforcing their rights. Companies claim brands are similar when they are not, or they claim that products/services are related when they are not. While some of these companies simply do not understand the extent of their rights, others are trying to take more than the law allows.
An analogy might help. You have a neighbor who frequently tells kids in front of his house to get off his property. However, the neighborhood kids are goofing off on the sidewalk, not in his yard. In this case, the neighbor does not understand the extent of his rights. Others may be unbothered by the kids playing outside, but there’s always someone that thinks this violates his property rights.
The group that takes more than the law allows is much more conniving. This is akin to a toddler grabbing an older sibling’s toy and crying loudly enough until the older kid just lets them have it. These “grabby” companies know exactly what they’re doing. They are the bullies in the world of trademark law. The only people happy with their activities are their lawyers as they get great fees from all this legal activity.
Of the three types of intellectual property bullies, trademark bullies are probably the least offensive. However, it is frustrating to see them try to outspend companies to create these extra rights. How do you handle a bully? You identify them, call them out and don’t back down. I’m happy to help you if you feel you are the victim of a bully.