The Aussie start up business “Groggle” got a bit more than it bargained for when it launched into business as a liquor price comparison website. And as a result, this latest David and Goliath trademark battle is a reminder about the need for caution in choosing and protecting business and product names.
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much similar between a liquor price comparison website and the internet search engine giant Google. But Google thought otherwise, and many months later (and undoubtedly many many dollars later) the Aussie battler Groggle decided it was easier to concede, and recently agreed to hand over all of its domain names to Google and cease trading under its name.
Google wasn’t the only one to attack its name choice. During the tousle with Google, Groggle was also hit with another blow when discount alcohol website “Boozle” also threatened to take action to stop it using its name.
Sadly, this type of story is all too common. I have countless examples of clients coming to the realisation that they are behind the eight ball in protecting their trademark and intellectual property rights. Even though expert assistance at the beginning costs such a small percentage of how much it ends up costing when the advice is sought too late.
What’s the cost of a legal stoush like this?
In this case, apart from the kinds of costs you would expect when a re-brand is forced on a company – like wasted cost in purchasing domain names, paying for re-design of their website, and the obvious legal costs – the owners of the company formerly known as “Groggle” say that the difficult process with Google had prevented the company from business growth for at least the last 6 months. Once you realise that a battle over your name choice is underway, it can be debilitating for business.
How can you protect yourself against this kind of all-too-common mess?
The answer really is extremely simple. When you are at that point of choosing branding or logos for your business or a product, take out cheap insurance by having an expert review your choices, conduct a few searches, and give you some ideas on whether you are embarking down a safe route, or one destined for disaster.
And for less than you would generally spend on a year’s insurance for your car, apply for the indefinite protection of a registered trademark as soon as you can (and if possible, before you commit to a new name or logo, and before you start marketing).
Groggle’s attempt at a trademark application in this case really fleshed out the issues, that could have played out in a far more expensive way, had they launched the site before getting the branding registered.
Even if you have been using your mark for years, it’s still not too late to take proactive steps to protect your mark from abuse by competitors. But the point is that you need to be leading the charge, rather than waiting until it’s too late…