Entrepreneur, the Magazine for Entrepreneurs, Sics Its Lawyers on Entrepreneur
Paul M. Barrett writes for Bloomberg that lawyers for Entrepreneur Media Inc. (EMI) sent a cease-and-desist letter to a veteran Austin, Texas, entrepreneur who started a law firm, a mortgage company and a real estate-lending outfit.
The 50-year-old's offense, according to EMI's legal eagles?
Launching a website with "entrepreneur" in its name. Entrepreneur trademarked "entrepreneur" years ago.
DING-DING-DING! . . . AH-OOO-GAH! AH-OOO-GAH! . . . EEE-AWWW! EEE-AWWW! . . . DIVE! DIVE! . . . And whatever other alarm noises summon the corporate sharks!
Although the official embracer of the entrepreneurial spirit loves making folk heroes out of those who created successful businesses from scratch, EMI sure as Shinola doesn't take to one cutting into its own financial pie chart. As detailed in Barrett's piece, EMI's Los Angeles-based corporate law firm Latham & Watkins has successfully gone for the jugular of anyone who has dared use "entrepreneur" or a bastardization of that word in their title.
That's not totally fair, a Latham & Watkins rep protests in the story. There was the company EMI allowed to continue selling its Entrepreneur model sewing machine. And the EMI lawyers hilariously point Barrett to cases in which Bloomberg has gone after startups with Bloomberg in their names. Who you callin' litigious, Michael Bloomberg?
But those incidents involved, say, a mortgage company putting Bloomberg in its title, when no one named Bloomberg worked there and, given the news service's coverage of the financial world, might rightly spark confusion (or a perceived endorsement). Meanwhile, as Barrett notes, the Entrepreneur suits (or threats thereof) are the only known examples of a publication going after the very people it is trying to attract. It's even more ballsy given the struggle magazines are having to keep readers.
That EMI vigorously defends its trademark on grounds of being the victim of some kind of thievery is funny when you consider the magazine's own founding. John Leonard Burke was sentenced to four years in prison in 1966 for attempting to rob four Houston banks in one day by having accomplices deliver letters warning bank tellers that their children had been kidnapped and would only be returned if the tellers surrendered large canvas bags stuffed with cash. In fact, no children had been snatched.
Settling in Southern California after his release, Burke changed his name to Chase Revel, started Entrepreneur in 1979 and quickly registered the trademark for "entrepreneur." His first cease-and-desist letter, sent by his attorney in 1980, went to the UCLA Graduate School of Management's Entrepreneur Association.
Wonder if an annoying subscription card fell out of the legal papers?