We Got A Trademark Infringement Letter!
A couple weeks ago I received a letter from semvironment Interactive, Inc. - a website design company from LA. (www.semvironmentinteractive.com)
This is their letter to me:
Dear James C. Zolman,
semvironment Interactive, Inc. is a Los Angeles-based interactive agency with 12 years service to the online advertising industry. semvironment owns the subject Trademark Registrations Nos. 2,411,996 and 2,411,997 for online advertising services including designing, implementing, creating, and maintaining Web sites.
This letter will serve as formal written notice that semvironment considers your use of the name semvironment is a trademark violation.
We ask that you please take notice and the appropriate actions to avoid a Trademark Infiringement case filed on our behalf by counsel. That would require a name change away from the trademarked “semvironment” as you were prior to August 2007. We will afford you 30 calendar days to cooperate with this request prior to us taking legal action.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Justin Woo, CEO and Owner/Founder of semvironment Interactive at 310-836-9777.
Back to me here…I found their Trademarks here.
I think it is funny that the trademarks do not even mention advertising or marketing…like their letter implies.
And I like to think I’m a reasonable person to deal with. Here is how I would have handled the perceived situation -
Pick up the dang phone and call the CEO of the company and simply state that I’m genuinely interested in helping a business succeed so I wanted to notify them about trademarks and I would ask them to simply review a couple trademarks and ask them for their opinion. Eventually, if we did not agree on something, I would politely tell them that we are at a point where it might be best to use legal communications from this point forward…etc.
To be quite frank, I am pissed that people feel like they have to immediately turn to (fake?) self-authored legal letters…I mean, if I were to send a “legal” letter I would have my attorney sign it with their credentials instead of my own. Yes, the letter was signed by the “President” of semvironment Interactive, Inc.
What happened to having the balls to actually SPEAK to somebody about a problem - even if it’s through a phone!?!
On another note - it is quite flattering that a California company feels like an Idaho company is a threat to their trademark/customer base.
What do you think?
Do you think I am infringing on their trademark or are our business names fair game?
Is there really a “likelihood of confusion” between our company names and services?
How would you act if you thought somebody was infringing on your trademark? Am I out of line here?
Here is the flip side -
Perhaps, and I will give them credit for this, they believe a semi-personal “official” communication (which probably is legal and could hold in court) was the most appropriate action to take first. Maybe it was the right thing for them to do…and I’ll admit I’m a handshake “man of my word” kind of a guy so this type of communication simply rubbed me the wrong way…just thought I would let you know that I AM striving to see things from their perspective and I have consulted with and I am communicating with 3 attorneys regarding this subject.
Update Friday 1/25 3:45 PM: Justin just gave me a call - and I’m glad he did. He clarified that the letter was meant to be a semi-formal notice that legal means will probably be pursued so it was not authored by his attorneys. He also mentioned that they have been doing SEO and PPC for a long time. I mentioned that we’re in a completely different league and we aren’t targeting the same customers but he said that he really felt we were infringing on the mark still and he would pursue legal action if we didn’t change the name. He wasn’t very negotiable and didn’t want to explain much so it was a short phone call…I don’t blame him - I can kind of understand and see where he’s coming from and I told him so.
I guess we’ll see what happens.
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