I’m not a frugalista because I’m not allowed to be. This seems to be ridiculous trademark litigation week in the personal finance blogosphere and a very unfrugal (it seems) frugalista, is sending out notices that she’s trademarked the rather common term and is not allowing other bloggers to use it in their site titles. Good thing I’m not “Frugalista Finance for a Freelance Life.”
Then, you may have heard that Lazy Man and Money is being sued by Monavie. He published a Monavie scam critique, which has gathered 3000 comments and appears in the top 10 search results when you search for Monavie. Monavie is trying to get him to remove metadata keywords on his article.
I’m one of those people who reads just enough about trademark law to be dangerous, because I don’t know enough to give legal advice. However, what both Monavie and the “Frugalista” (I’m not giving her a link, but I’ll link later on to one of the people she’s sent a cease and desist to) are doing is pretty similar.
Why Monavie’s Wrong
In both cases, they’re arguing that when people use their trademarked terms, it’s going to confuse people searching for them. The problem is that Lazy’s critique of Monavie is just that–it’s about Monavie. People won’t be confused into thinking he’s selling their product or is the official Monavie site (except, perhaps, for really really dumb ones who miss the fact that he’s calling Monavie a scam).
And Lazy has the right to use the term Monavie to critique it. He doesn’t have the right to create a product called “Monavie,” because that might confuse people–just like I can’t design sneakers and sell them as “Coke running shoes.” But since he’s not luring people to his site to sell them an alternate product (he’s actually talking about Monavie) and he’s not trying to dilute Monavie’s brand and leach their marketplace “goodwill” by using their name in another product, this is ridiculous.
My verdict – Monavie is going after Lazy because he’s got the most dynamic conversation about them (and how they suck) going on right now. They’re trying to do whatever they can to take him down–which in this case means grasping for straws at similar but inapplicable cases. In his article about their newest C&D request, Lazy outlines these cases and why Monavie is wrong.
Why the Frugalista’s Wrong
Next comes the Frugalista issue. In this case, she’s trying to enforce a trademark of a common word. I think it’s unfrugal and a poor example of a personal finance blogger (who I’d never even heard of until this story broke…).
The thing about trademarks is that it’s easier to trademark something than to enforce it. For instance, if I ran a blog called “Scissors,” I could try to trademark the word “scissors.” But I couldn’t actually force other people to stop using the mark because it’s a generic and common word and because most people wouldn’t think of my blog when you said “scissors.”
The Jackson (recipient of a C&D from the Frugalista-who-shall-not-be-linked) Frugalista offers an argument on why Frugalista does not meet the requirements to be enforced as a trademark. After all, when I say “Frugalista,” does the Frugalist-who-shall-not-be-linked come to your mind? Do you know who I’m talking about? Does it make you think of one thing in particular?
Thought not. What about a type of person? We can all imagine her, and think of people we know who are “frugalistas.”
If her name were something that isn’t common use, like “Finance for a Freelance Life,” or “Lazy Man and Money,” or “The Simple Dollar,” then she’d have a case and I’d be behind her if someone started a blog called “The DC Simple Dollar.” But that’s because the name would be a direct ripoff of her mark. Frugalistas all over the world are simply using an everyday word in blogs like “Frugalista Gardener” or “Frugalista Japan.”
Also, I think the universe should take “frugalista” away from her because she engaged in this petty litigation, hiring lawyers to send C&D notices to bloggers. Yes, in fact, I’m not in charge of the universe and being a bitch. But since she’s causing pain to other, more frugal bloggers who are going to save their money instead of hiring lawyers to contest what should be a pretty easy case to win, I find myself despising her. I hope someone will accept her challenge and rack up legal bills for her. Way to go, person I didn’t no existed until last week, great start!