Thursday

WOULD ABRAHAM LINCOLN SHOP AT NORDSTROM'S? NOT IF HE SAW HOW THEY AND THEIR TRADEMARK LAWYERS BEHAVE

Today is Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. Every American citizen would be wise to read of his life. It should almost be malpractice for any American lawyer not to have a strong grasp of how Mr. Lincoln practiced law and politics.
Many biographies have been written. The bicentennial of his birth brings us A. Lincoln a biography by Ronald C. Whyte. The book is simply superb. It offers an in depth view of a truly great but truly human man.

A. Lincoln was a trial lawyer. But he was first an foremost an officer of the court. A man whose strongest loyatly was to justice not simply to win while sacrificing his own ideals. The Trademark Troll finds himself wondering, all to often, whether such men still are easily found in the legal profession.

This is especially true after one reads the story of what appears to be yet another example of trademark abuse by a large company and their lawyers.

Several years ago two small businessmen began using the trademark BECKONS for items of women's clothing. They sought to federally register their trademark. The United States Trademark Office granted their request. Here's where it gets wacky.

After the application for BECKON'S had been approved but BEFORE it had been officially published by the government, Nordstrom's filed to register the term BECKON for women's clothing. And for some reason the government attorney examining the Nordstrom's application overlooked the earlier application for BECKON'S. As a result BOTH got approved and the small folks had to spend time and money to get the Nordstrom's application disallowed.

As this was unfolding the Trademark Office realized their mistake and sought to cancel the Nordstrom application. But Nordstrom's, instead of graciously recognizing that a mistake had been made, resorted to the all too typical approach of the big guy. Let's outspend the little guy regardless of the merits of our case.

So now Nordstrom's joins the ever larger ranks of supposedly ethical businesses who must explain themselves after a torrent of bad publicity. In this case the Trademark Office too has suffered a black eye but they are limited in the corrective measures they can take.

As always when I learn of these situations, I find myself thinking Where were their lawyers?
It would have been painfully obvious to those lawyers that Nordtrom's was seeking to profit from a mistake.

Where is the pursuit of justice? Or an attempt to suggest that overreaching is not consistent with the incredible commitment to customer service that Nordtrom's has worked so hard to cultivate.

I can confidently say what A. Lincoln would have done. I would like to believe that The Trademark Troll would do the same. Come to think of it A. Lincoln would have much to say about Jones Day and its abuse of trademark law. How sad.

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