September 27, 2016

Trademarks & The Little Guy

Utah entrepreneur sued by Entrepreneur Magazine for use of the word “entrepreneur”

Utah entrepreneur Alex Lawrence was recently sued by Entrepreneur Magazine because he used the word “entrepreneur” in the title of his blog. Until being sued by Entrepreneur Magazine, Alex ran TheEntrepreneursBlog.com, a compendium of “tips to start and grow a great business.” Since the lawsuit, Alex has stopped using the word “entrepreneur” in his blog title, changing to Startup Flavor at Startupflavor.com.

Entrepreneur Magazine has attempted to trademark the word “entrepreneur” in most of its forms. Using the word to describe any type of convention or gathering could get you sued. For example the University of Utah “Entrepreneur Center” is in violation says Scott Smith of Sacramento California who has been an advocate for small business owners fighting against corporations against frivolous allegations of trademark infringement. According to Smith, the practice of corporations believing that they own certain words and phrases and even letters of the alphabet has more to due with the United States Trademark Office than the growing perception that corporations are inherently evil.The manner in which the trademark office heavily favors giant corporations and their lawsuits against small business owners is due to the constant work of corporate lobbyists in Washington. According to Smith corporations have lobbyists working in their favor all of the time, not only writing the laws but effecting the outcomes of court decisions.

United States Trademark Office Logo

Serving on the board of directors at trademark associations are often former or current executives of companies such as Ford, Dell and IBM. “You won’t find Burt from Burt’s Hardware sitting on these boards chiming in on discussions,” says Smith. The problem is small businesses and ma and pa stores are seriously underrepresented if even acknowledged by trademark associations.” Smith has made it a major part of his mission in life to fight against “trademark bullying” He says it has cost him millions of dollars fighting against Entrepreneur Magazine and he has been in litigation against them for the past 14 years. But Smith says 99% of small business owners don’t want to fight, and “I can hardly blame them,” However, Smith adds the best reaction to trademark bullies is to stand right up to them, don’t show fear and do everything that they would like you not to do, beginning with going straight to the media. As soon as you show fear, they double down their efforts. Be strong and fight back.” Alex Lawrence did not return our request to comment on this story.