Terri Kelly, a mother of six who started her “second life” as an entrepreneur designing comfortable flip-flops, did everything right when she launched her company. First, she designed a great product that addressed a market need. She worked tirelessly to get her product into shops, boutiques and local stores. And she trademarked her unique branding statement: “Yoga Pants for Your Feet®”.
So imagine her dismay when she learned that billion-dollar shoemaker Skechers was using her trademarked term to market their Stretch Fit sneakers nationally.
Terri’s story, which appeared on Savor Magazine’s Savor the Success blog, is an entrepreneur’s nightmare, a real David-and-Goliath conundrum. Billion-dollar companies have lots of financial resources to wage a legal battle, while entrepreneurs like Terri do not. Still, Terri knew in her gut that the right thing to do was fight back.
She started by having her attorney draft a cease-and-desist letter. Unfortunately, it was ignored and Skechers continues to use her trademark, according to the blog.
Terri then turned to her mentor, Savor Magazine editor-in-chief Angela Jia Kim, for advice and this is what Kim told her:
“Terri, what would you advise your daughter? What would you tell her to do if a billion-dollar company used her trademark that she fought for? This is bigger than you, Terri. You will be fighting for so much more than you. This may be your life’s calling. How many of us entrepreneurs back down from bigger companies, more powerful businesses because we don’t have the resources, the energy, or the money to fight them? I’ve been there. So many entrepreneurs have been there. And now you are HERE. You are leading the torch for small companies to stand up for themselves, because having someone else use your Trademark is not fair.”
On May 13, 2015, Terri filed suit against Skechers to protect her trademark. According to the blog, Skechers said,
“While we ordinarily do not comment on pending litigation, this warrants a response. Skechers categorically denies the allegations, and believes this case is nothing more than an attempt to trade on Skechers’ long track record of success. We look forward to vindicating our position in court.”
Terri Kelly did many things right to protect her intellectual property. First, she protected her brand by registering for a trademark. When she learned of the infringement, she took immediate action with a cease-and-desist request. When that didn’t work, she mustered up her courage and filed a lawsuit to protect her fledgling company.
Terri is also harnessing the power of social media for her cause. On her blog, she wrote:
“My wallet is very small. But my will is very large. That is my trademark and I am going to fight for it. Please support me by using the hashtags #defendourtrademarks #skechers and send a message to Skecher’s that just because they are big does not mean they have the right to grow their company by using someone else’s idea, which happens to be protected.”
As a result, people have begun boycotting Skechers and even returning products they bought there. We’ll keep you posted on what happens with this case. In the meantime…
Your business ideas and brand are important property worth protecting. If you are interested in learning more about intellectual property protection strategies, come to our meetup about trademarks! [Register here.]