A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported on the perils faced by start-up business when faced with a trade mark infringement lawsuit filed against it by a large established corporation:
Jimmy Winkelmann started a clothing company several years ago to mock fellow students who wore the outdoorsy The North Face brand, despite having no inclination to venture into the wilderness. He dubbed his company “The South Butt” and flipped The North Face’s half-dome logo to look like buttocks.
But at least one party wasn’t amused: The North Face.
Mr. Winkelmann, now a student at the University of Missouri at Columbia, received a cease-and-desist letter from the company last summer. He declined to comply, prompting a trademark infringement suit that was settled out of court in April.
The South Butt is still in operation. Mr. Winkelmann’s lawyer and a spokeswoman for The North Face, a unit of VF Corp., said the matter was resolved amicably, but declined to comment further. It’s unclear if Mr. Winkelmann is required to make any payments to The North Face or if the company has imposed any conditions on his marketing efforts.
Small businesses, unwittingly or not, have a history of running into scuffles by playing off a larger company’s protected trademarks—sometimes resulting in legal battles they can ill afford, given the limited resources of most start-up operations. Some 3,500 trademark cases are filed each year in U.S. district courts, according to FTI Consulting Inc., a Baltimore advisory firm that tracks intellectual-property statistics.
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Based in Chicago and Oak Brook, Illinois, Lubin Austermuehle represents clients in trademark infringement litigation throughout Illinois, the Midwest and the United States including in Naperville, Wheaton, Hinsdale and Lake Forest. Our Chicago business attorneys represent businesses of all sizes, from family-owned small businesses to large corporations and partnerships. Our Lake Forest, Illinois trade libel attorneys also handle related claims of online defamation of a product, service or business, as well as unfair competition and other business claims. If your business is facing online infringement and unfair defamation of your products or services, we can help. To set up a consultation with one of our Chicago business law attorneys, to learn more about us, please contact us online or call us toll-free at (833) 306-4933.