Make Sure Your Business Doesn’t Infringe On Another’s Intellectual Property
If you start a business, you will name your business, and perhaps think of a slogan or saying. You may not give much thought about intellectual property—copyrights or trademarks—but if you aren’t careful, you can end up on the wrong end of a major intellectual property lawsuit by another company that holds the idea, name or slogan that you’re using—or even if your name or slogan is too close to a name that someone else owns.
Nike Sues Plant Store Owner
This is exactly the problem being faced by the owner of a small online plant store owner. The owner filed for a trademark for her online store, which she called “Just Succ It,” based on the succulent plants that she sells. She applied for and received a trademark for the name. However, as anybody who knows about sneakers knows, Nike is the owner of the classic phrase “Just Do It.”
Nike has now sued her to get her to stop using the name.
What is a Trademark?
Trademarks are names, slogans, logos or sayings, that have acquired value to them due to their association in the public eye with a brand or a product.
Think of, for example, Target’s bullseye logo. On its own, it’s just a bullseye—not unlike any other bullseye you would see on a shooting range or a dartboard, and there is nothing inherently artistic or different about the bullseye—it’s just a series of red and white circles.
But that Bullseye, when seen by anybody in the general American public, is now associated with Target stores. If you wanted to use a bullseye similar to that one for your store’s logo, you would run into trouble with Target.
Trademarks therefore require a showing that the public associates a mark or design or logo with a specific brand or product. And if you apply for a trademark, with the intention of making that showing, but someone else already owns or has registered that trademark, they can file an opposition to your registration, just as Nike did with the plant owner.
Trademark owners worry about damaging or diluting their brand. In our example, if people somehow think your small online store that uses Target’s bullseye logo is actually Target or associated with Target, that may lower or diminish Target’s reputation or brand—you may not make products the way Target does, or provide the customer service that Target does.
Prior Lawsuits Involving Nike
Nike is no stranger to these kinds of lawsuits. A rap artist in 2021 tried to take existing Nike sneakers, fill them with human blood, call them “Satan Shoes” and then resell them. Nike sued, alleging that people would mistakenly believe that Nike itself is selling and marketing the “Satan Shoes.” The rapper eventually ceased sales of the shoe.
Call the West Palm Beach copyright litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig for help with your intellectual property questions or concerns.