Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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2/12/2009
00:47 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Nordstrom Eyes End To Trademark Blitz; Settlement?

UPDATE: Retail giant Nordstrom's blunt-force attempt to seize a trademark from a small online retailer, made possible by an error within the Patent & Trademark Office, might produce a happy ending instead of wiping out the small firm that's had to spend more than $70,000 on legal fees. Nordstrom says it's "sorry" if it hurt the small business and is seeking an acceptable solution.

UPDATE: Retail giant Nordstrom's blunt-force attempt to seize a trademark from a small online retailer, made possible by an error within the Patent & Trademark Office, might produce a happy ending instead of wiping out the small firm that's had to spend more than $70,000 on legal fees. Nordstrom says it's "sorry" if it hurt the small business and is seeking an acceptable solution.In an e-mail message sent yesterday to Global CIO, Nordstrom VP of corporate communications Brooke White said a customer sent to the company a copy of our article about the dispute. That article, posted earlier this week, included an excerpt from a letter sent by the small retailer, named Beckons, to the commissioner of trademarks asking the agency to correct its mistake. That excerpt said in part:

"Just because Nordstrom has money and we do not does not give them the right to use the name for which we have the trademark. . . . [T]he cost to work through the TTAB will easily exceed $70,000 just to fix the problem The Trademark Office made in the first place. We understand that we must stand behind and police our trademark. How is this possible for a small company to stand up to a behemoth like Nordstrom for $70,000? Your office has ensured our demise."

The possibility of a happy ending was raised in the Nordstrom e-mail message sent yesterday to Global CIO, which says:

"A customer of ours e-mailed us a copy of your story from yesterday expressing their unhappiness with how they feel Nordstrom has handled this issue. I'd like you to know our thoughts. Our intention from the beginning was to co-exist with Beckons in a manner that would enable Beckons to use their trademark on yoga merchandise, while we used the Beckon name for fashion apparel and accessories. We never intended to adversely affect Ms. Prater's business and we are sorry if this has happened. We are reaching out again to Ms. Prater's attorneys to reach a settlement that we are hoping she will find acceptable. When we have resolved this issue, which we are hopeful will be soon, we'll get back to you to share the outcome."

The business world is not for the faint of heart, and our system of laws and other protections such as the Patent & Trademark Office exist to ensure that the rough-and-tumble exertions of the business world do not get out of hand. Plus, the Beckons owners demonstrate in their letter to the trademarks commissioner that they're aware of the obligation the free market places on them: "We understand that we must stand behind and police our trademark." Yet, because this whole mess originated with the error inside the P&TO agency, it is heartening to see that Nordstrom at least appears to be willing to try to rectify this situation fairly. We will keep you posted.

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