Monday, February 23, 2009

Trademark Horror Story

I have a Horror Story for you about Trademarks.

Ballback was the perfect name for my basketball return device. It hangs on the basketball rim and kicks the ball back to the shooter. Here’s the horror story!

One day my neighbor came storming to my house with a copy of Golf Digest Magazine. It had a pictured ad of an extendable golf ball retriever called “Ballback”. It looked something like a telescopic spoon – stretching to grab a sunken golf ball, but it sure as hell didn’t kick basketballs back. I called the Texas firm, and spoke with the owner, telling how I had registered that trademark Ballback, years ago. He knew we dealt with the same industry of sport stores – and sport accessories. He agreed there were chances of mass confusion.

But he wasn’t mad at me. He was furious with his attorney…The attorney didn’t discover the existing trademark ownership. It was public information at the USPTO for years. The man had to change his logo, his letterheads, his advertizing and anything else.

He sent me some stationery, with new logo and a nice apology. You know, I felt sorry for the guy, But, like I say all the time - only you (the inventor) are the only one keeping a keen eye on everything about your product. You can’t even rely on an attorney. You know, they really are human. They do make mistakes.

To their benefit, attorneys will usually squeeze all they can from every copyright, trademark and patent you process. Contracts, License Agreements and Business sales will brag thoroughly about the value of these assets. You know they really can be considered an investment - well worth having. I mean the intellectual properties - not the attorneys.

I’m still wondering about those weasels messing with my copyrights. You think about it too.

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