Brand Infringement: Battle of The Berries
I was recently explaining to a friend how expensive brand infringement can be if you are found to be infringing on another company’s brand. I have a story about the word “Dewberry” that illustrates this. Dewberry is an uncommon word. Webster’s definition is any of several sweet edible berries related to and resembling blackberries. It is also an uncommon last name. Not many people are aware of the word Dewberry. In addition, it is also a part of the name of a prominent civil engineering and surveying firm which expanded into real estate development. Oh and wait, there’s more! It is also a word in the name of another real estate development company.
A Tale of Two Dewberries
Dewberry Engineers began business in the 1950s. Dewberry Capital began business in 2000. DE started in Virginia; DC started in Georgia. Both grew and expanded over time, and they ran into each other in the early 2000s. DC sent a demand letter to DE claiming it had senior rights in Georgia. DE filed suit. The two parties settled in 2007 with DC agreeing to certain limitations, including that it could not use “Dewberry Capital” in certain areas, and would only use a specific column logo.
This should have been the end of the matter. DE gave up the opportunity to take profits from DC in exchange for a certain outcome. DC just couldn’t leave good-enough alone. In 2017, DC rebranded to DEWBERRY GROUP and began using a different logo. DE brought suit for breach of contract and trademark infringement. DE was able to prove all claims and was awarded a judgment of $43 million. This number was the amount of profit DC had earned while committing brand infringement with the name DEWBERRY GROUP. DE also received reimbursement for its legal expenses.
Don’t Dew Them Wrong!
In the end, DC was also permanently stopped from using the name “Dewberry.” That’s right, DC founder’s last name was taken from him. So yes, infringement can be incredibly expensive. It often puts a company out of business. Companies of all sizes should want to avoid this. I started my firm to help smaller companies with this exact issue. Infringement suits can be the demise of a small business.
Are you thinking about using your last name as your business name? Check out my previous post to find out more information that can prevent you from ending up a dewberry!