What’s up with big corporations going after small businesses and non-profits over dubious trademark infringements? If there’s actual trickery involved, and a company is looking to capitalize off the success of an established brand, then fine, sue ‘em into next week. But increasingly it seems like big business is going after the little guy just because they can. Here’s a couple examples from just this week:
Offender Number One: Starbucks. Apparently as a part of its continued effort to reclaim its glory days, the struggling coffee giant is after a local Seattle roller derby team over its logo. The problem? Apparently the round logo, two stars, and sans-serif font. While the two logos do look suspiciously similar, it’s not exactly like the Rat City Rollergirls are slinging carmel light frappucinos. According to the Roller Derby League’s lawyer:
“The Starbucks lawyer said that the girls on the roller derby team look scary, and she didn’t think, in her own personal opinion, [that] Starbucks would want to associate themselves with the scary characters of Rat City Rollergirls.”
Offender Number Two: Johnson & Johnson. Slashdot reports today that Johnson & Johnson lost a recent lawsuit against the American Red Cross—a charity—over its use of the red cross logo. Apparently Johnson & Johnson was frustrated because the Red Cross was using the cross on products it pimps out to the public (has anyone really seen “Red Cross” brand ointment in their local store?). Says the Red Cross’ mouthpiece:
“For a multibillion-dollar drug company to claim that the Red Cross violated a criminal statute … simply so that J&J can make more money, is obscene.” (via the International Herald Tribune)
It seems like these stories pop up every week. What do you think? Should corporations back off trademark cases when the other business isn’t a competitor or are they right to fight tooth and nail ?