That’s what happened. Eight years after establishing my business program, branding it locally, paying for a sophisticated website, buying memberships to networking organizations in its name, wrapping my vehicle, winning awards… eight years of branding and promotion and achievement, and the unthinkable happened.
I found myself in a trademark conflict.
Here’s how it went:
March 11, 2011: I receive an email from Mathew Georghiou of Sydney, NS. In it he tells me I’m in trademark infringement of his company of the same name. And asks me to please let him know what I’m going to do to rectify this situation.
He then followed with online proof of his 1999 and 2002 trademarks in Canada and the US. He then gave me his website address and asked me to let him know my plans for renewing my business with a different name.
He ended with this: “I don’t take pleasure in writing this letter as I know you don’t in receiving it. But, as an entrepreneurship trainer, I trust you understand its necessity.”
That final sentence says it all, really. As it turns out that email sat in his drafts file for six months; he truly did feel as badly to send it as I did to receive it!
This is every business’ nightmare, really. I started my program as a product of my overall business, Donna Douglas Communications. I didn’t expect it to take on a life of its own, but it did.
Because Mathew reached out to me with such concern, his email let me respond in a positive way. I booked a flight and scheduled an afternoon to fly to Sydney to meet him. It felt like we were supposed to meet.
It was the best thing I could have done.
Why? It put us on the same page. It let me understand the depth of what he was developing, his international sales, his new contract with Cisco, his ultimate goal to sell his company and move on to his next idea.
Together we talked about our businesses… his, international; mine, very, very local, Barrie-area driven.
He had been thinking of potential new names and I thanked him for that.
Once back in Barrie I was motivated to re-brand and pulled together the best marketing minds in my network to brainstorm a branding solution for our popular program.
We spent an entire evening around a table, laptops open and connected to various sites, where we were able to verify, register, incorporate, and book domain names for our new identity.
It took about a year after re-identity to make the shift from the tips of people’s tongues… old name to new name. I feel good that we’ve almost completely eliminated any reference of the old name associated with my work.
Mathew and I correspond regularly with each other. He shares each achievement as his company moves forward. And I applaud. He’s interested in our approach to entrepreneurial training.
Mathew’s approach was so much better than a threatening letter from a lawyer that leaves no wiggle room for understanding.
My response also directed this story. How we respond to things that happen to us can make a tragedy into cause for celebration!
As Mathew said to me later, “it’s not just business; it’s personal.”