Mar
13

Tongue Tied

Here is an article that appeared in Forbes Magazine about the voracious battle Entrepreneur Media Inc. appears to be in with anyone that uses the word Entrepreneur in their literature or name. The word Entrepreneur appeared in the dictionary some 40 years before Entrepreneur Magazine received their trademark; which they have held for 25 years. However, Entrepreneur Magazine seems to think they own this word that is part of the English language. My suspicions were right on the mark, unfortunately, in this regard…

So what is the next step for Entrepreneur The Arts? My attorney has replied to their cease and desist letter with details of other cases that clearly do not support their claims. We actually have an excellent case against them as my attorney did do all his homework before we pursued registering the mark. Neither one of us, however, were aware of this ongoing issue with EMI. Clearly had we been, we would have thought differently about what words to pursue having a trademark placed on.

The life of an Entrepreneur is filled with hidden land mines! Welcome aboard!!

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Tongue Tied by
Doug Donovan

TEPHEN MORRIS WAS THRILLED when Entrepreneur magazine plugged his Atlanta-based business, Kids Way, three years ago. Today, he and Vice President Misty Elliott wish Entrepreneur had never heard of them.

The magazine’s April 1997 article read like a free ad. It detailed how Kids Way teaches the 8-to-18 crowd to start businesses and listed contact information. “Kids Way also publishes a bimonthly newsletter, Young Entrepreneur,” Entrepreneur wrote. Within 20months the 2,000-circulation newsletter grew into a glossy with 16,000 paid subscribers. Today it doesn’t even exist–not in name, at least. Last year, Entrepreneur filed a lawsuit in federal court against Morris and Elliott, alleging that their use of the word “entrepreneur” violated the magazine’s trademark, and asking for treble damages.

Morris didn’t want to waste time on a costly defense and changed the newsletter’s name to Y&E, which has hampered subscription renewals. “It seems they’re going after the little guys who don’t have the resources to fight them,” says Elliott.

The nasty fistfight over intellectual property has taken some pretty strange forms these days–what with Amazon.com and Priceline.com putting a legal force field around their business models. But trying to corner the market on a word bandied about more often than “bandwidth”?

For the past six years Entrepreneur Media, the Irvine, Calif.-based parent of Entrepreneur, has protected its trademark name by going after small businesses that use the word “entrepreneur” in publications and on Web sites. Smart business, no doubt. But crippling to some of the very people it purports to help. Among the sundry victims: Asian Entrepreneur. The Diamond Bar, Calif. publication changed its name to Asian Enterprisein 1994 after receiving a cease-and-desist letter. “A legal fight would have put us under”, says publisher Gelly Borromeo. Publishing Entrepreneur. This Traverse City, Mich.-based outfit scrapped its print publication in 1997, and fled to the Web with a new name entirely, Independent Publisher. Says founder Jerrold Jenkins, “They just bully you.” Entrepreneur Illustrated.That’s the quarterly publication of Scott Smith, president of Sacramento, Calif.-based EntrepreneurPR. Smith is being sued. “They told me they’re going to wear me out by making my life a living hell,” he says. Smith insists he will contest the suit. www.entrepreneur.com.Never mind that the Web site was registered in 1994 by James Borzilleri, president of FreeClub.com–two years before Entrepreneurregistered its site, www.entrepreneur mag.com. Entrepreneur Media went after him last year. Borzilleri (whom Entrepreneurcalls a “cybersquatter”) sold out for a reported $50,000. www.entrepreneurs.com.Another legal target, Gregory McLemore, has set up a protest page at his Web site, www.entrepreneurs.com/free.html. This guy has plenty of money to fight back. He built and sold Toys.com to Etoys, and founded Pets.com, which went public in February, raising $82.5 million. “There’s a good chance that their trademark could be thrown out,” says McLemore, president of Pasadena, Calif. incubator, WebMagic.

Maybe. Folks like McLemore and Smith could fend off the legal attack by proving that “entrepreneur” is a generic term. Turning generic is what killed the onetime trademarks for cellophane and escalator and what the owners of names like Xerox and Kleenex spend small fortunes to prevent. “Entrepreneur,” of course, is rather different from Xerox because the company claiming to own the trademark did not coin the word. But Entrepreneur Media registered the trademark in 1982, and has the powerful Latham &Watkins of Los Angeles behind it.

The monthly was founded in 1978 by Chase Revel, author of how-to business books, including the 1979 “classic,” The Newest, Most Unique Ways People Are Making Money, Vol. II. The magazine filed for Chapter 11 in 1982.

Today Entrepreneuris owned and operated by Peter Shea, who bought the magazine in 1987. Circulation is up 36% over the past five years to 527,658. Advertising revenue for 1999 rose 8% last year to $56 million (before discounts), some of that from classifieds like “EXTRACASH! No fees, no memberships. For kit information, send $10 (refundable) to: Black Hole Innovations Inc.”

Next thing you know, they’ll trademark the words “golden opportunity.”

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Resource Center for Arts Entrepreneurs by Entrepreneur The Arts is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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