Let’s be very clear, today is April Fools’ Day, but this is not an April Fools’ Joke.
It’s not every day Seth Godin volunteers a guest post, but Thursday was that day.
This isn’t the first time Seth has spoken out against trademark bullying, he’s on record before noting: “When a brand becomes a bully, it loses something vital.”
And: “If you want to keep the taco place down the street from infringing on your business, don’t hire lawyers to hate on their slogan. Make better tacos instead.”
Seth called out Entrepreneur Magazine for going after the name and mark for Jen’s podcast, “The Front Row Entrepreneur” — described by Jen this way: “The Front Row Entrepreneur gives you a front row seat to all of the most exciting people and happenings in online marketing and entrepreneurship.”
To Seth’s point, it’s difficult to create a podcast designed for an entire class of people known as entrepreneurs and not have the ability to include “entrepreneur” in the name, because it is: “One of the only words available to describe a person who builds an enterprise bigger than herself, often using outside resources.”
Actually, that’s a fair point, given the special meaning of the word — no other word that I could find with a thesaurus really captures the same and complete essence of the word “entrepreneur,” not “administrator, contractor, executive, manager, producer, backer, businessperson, founder, industrialist, organizer, promoter,” etc.
In fact, the Examining Attorney who approved Jen’s application to register THE FRONT ROW ENTREPRENEUR as a mark for podcasts, recognized the special meaning of the word, noting it to be descriptive of Jen’s podcasts: “A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.”
So, the USPTO told Jen to disclaim exclusive rights in the term ENTREPRENEUR in THE FRONT ROW ENTREPRENEUR mark for podcasts, and she did, but to satisfy Entrepreneur Magazine she also apparently needed to withdraw her registration application and, in terms of future use, contort the more efficient name into the more wordy mouthful: THE FRONT ROW PODCAST FOR ENTREPRENEURS.
So, what does ENTREPRENEUR mean anyway? Clearly much more than a particular magazine or other offerings of that magazine. Might it even designate a category or perhaps a subgroup of magazines — those about and for an entrepreneur?
If Entrepreneur Magazine is not careful, one of these days, it might find itself in a position tangling with an enforcement target willing to go the distance, finding out the hard way, if ENTREPRENEUR has become generic (part of the public domain).