How to Stop Service and Trademark Violations By Competitors and Would-Be Start-Ups
Well, if you are in a small business of your own chances are a competitor or would-be start up has copied something you’ve done. Whereas, they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, it isn’t so great when someone copies what you are doing to steal your business or your customers away. My first experience with this was when I was 17 years old and I had been running a mobile car wash business, a service sector which I basically invented out in California in the late 70s and early 80s. I created flyers to pass out to customers.
What I noted was that newbie entrepreneurs would copy my flyers, which had a price menu, and even the name of the services I provided; Deluxe Wash, Super Deluxe, etc. – the “super deluxe” was; a wash and wax, tires, dashboard, inside windows, vacuum and the price was $29. My competitors copied all that on their flyers along with the exact same price. Worse, it looked as if it was my flyer, only with a different company name on it and using the same font and format. At one point they were even using the same color paper I was using.
Worse, they were going to my same customers to get business. As far as I’m concerned that was BS. What I did next was I put a “little copyright c” at the bottom, and then I confronted them and said “see this little copyright? If you don’t stop copying my flyers I’m going to take your small claims court and sue you for $2500, which is how much business I think you’ve taken away, and I have documented this,” and then showed them a little journal with customer names and figures in it, people who used to be my customers that they had cleaned cars for.
You see, some of my customers told me they were sorry, they thought he was with me because he had the same types of flyers and similar equipment. When I explained to my customers that he had copied me, they felt cheated and betrayed, and even lied to. This is how I dealt with it, and I’m certainly not alone. If you find another company copying your trade dress, violating your copyrights, or even coming up with a logo which is very similar to the one you are using, then you need to stop them.
You should contact a trademark attorney and get a Federal Trademark (if you are operating in more than one state – including selling online) and register your service mark or trade name in your own state as well. It’s not as expensive as you might imagine, and if you don’t, they will copy you, especially if you are successful in making money. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.
“How to Handle Basic Copyright and Trademark Problems,” by Richard Dannay Chairman of the Practicing Law Institute Audio Cassette Program, New York, 1990, 4-cassettes on 7 sides 30-minutes each.