Thursday, May 12, 2011

Entrepreneur Magazine has the trademark to "entrepreneur"

You may have heard that Entrepreneur Media (which publishes Entrepreneur Magazine) trademarked the word "entrepreneur" over 30 years ago.  It seems that the media company has been suing some small businesses that use the term.

We are in the process of trademarking a term for our RFID tags and were intrigued by this story.  We are not attorneys and this is not leagl advice, but the primary purpose of trademark laws (so we are told) is to prevent confusion among the public.  Trademarks are granted for certain goods so a consumer knows what he or she is getting when shopping.

For example, the term Big Mac® is a registered trademark for McDonald's.  If Burger King sold a hamburger called a "Big Mac" it would be in violation of McDonald's trademark.  However, JC Penney's also owns a trademark to the term Big Mac®, referring to a line of men's clothing.  A consumer would not be confused by this.  When a person orders a Big Mac® at McDonald's, he or she is not expecting to purchase a pair of overalls.

In addition, one cannot trademark the word "hamburger" when referring to a hamburger, nor "overalls" when referring to overalls.   These would be considered generic or descriptive terms.

From Entrepreneur Media's perspective, their attorneys claim they are objecting to the use of the term in areas where there could be confusion and (rightfully and lawfully) leaving other uses alone.  For example, one can call his/herself an "entrepreneur" as much as he or she likes.  However, a company which called itself EntrepreneurPR and put out printed publications for small businesses was "crushed" by Entrepreneur Media in the courts.  From their track record, it would appear that Entrepreneur Media has the law on its side. 

Bloomberg's article, however, suggests that the actions by Entrepreneur Media are strange because the magazine is going after the very people who (you would think) they would want to attract as customers.  But, Entrepreneur Media sees things differently.  The article can be found here:

(Thanks to Kat Shoa for providing this article!)

Corporations back in a VC mode

A couple years ago, corporations were spending less on R&D and investing less in startups.  This trend has seemingly made a 180 degree turn.

"Last year, corporations invested $1.9 billion in venture capital in America, up 33 percent from $1.35 billion in 2009," according to an article by Robert Ackerman.  You can find the article here:  

This is an indication of improving economic conditions in the corporate world.  We keep hearing that companies are experiencing record earnings, but generally hoarding the cash; it sounds like some of those earnings are now beginning to go into creating or maintaining strategic advantages through investing.