Trademarked Out of a Title

Around the first of the month I asked my lawyer to trademark “This Just In” — the title of the column and newsletter that is coming up on a year old. The request results in the first “uh oh” of the publication’s short life.

The first step in that process is to ensure no one else has that as a trademark. He did a search …and discovered that a major corporation had just applied for a trademark for the phrase!

Worse, it was for “access through computer display to a portion of an electronic database which contains contents of a daily newspaper and summaries thereof.”

There was absolutely no way the two services could co-exist with the same name. Even though I had used it first (starting June 1994; they showed a “first use” of March 1995 — maybe they got the idea from me?), my lawyer presented a choice: I could fight the huge corporation and its large cadre of lawyers, or give up the title I had first.

Even though I’m in the right, they did the legal work first, and it’d be a waste of money I didn’t have to try to fight them.

I wracked my brain for a good title — one that was as good as This Just In. I tried to save the TJI acronym, but couldn’t.

“This is true” was a favored catch-phrase of a friend when I was a teenager, and that popped to mind. It seemed to fit nicely — I was publishing stories that were hard to believe, but true.

I checked with my lawyer: it was clear. As soon as he filed the trademark application I switched the publication’s name to This is True — with the lower-case “i” — and announced it with this week’s issue.

The first official logo with the hard-won “circle R” symbol.

The only thing I didn’t like about it: its acronym. I decided to call it True for short.

Sure enough, a couple of weeks after I re-launched with the new name I got a NastyGram from the big corporation’s lawyers, telling me to “cease and desist” using their trademark (which hadn’t been granted yet), and I had damn well better reply within 10 days crying “uncle” or else.

I waited a couple of weeks and sent them a letter: “That old title? I dumped it long ago.” Pbbbt!

– – –

Ironically, the Big Corporation gave up on the “This Just In” trademark — as far as I can tell, they never did actually launch their computerized summary of newspaper stories — and someone else has since grabbed it.

5 Comments on “Trademarked Out of a Title

  1. I’m sure I won’t be the first to tell you:

    “This Just In:Fire Still Hot!” is a quest in World of Warcraft. Apparently to be followed by “Water Still Wet” and “Rock Still Hard”.

    Blizzard likes to throw in these odd phrases & pop references. Some say this one links to Futurama, or Sim City.

    *Shrugs* Who knows?

    Trademarks don’t keep all uses of a word or phrase out of the public domain, just the “classes” that they’re claimed for. No one else can use “This is True” for a feature column, or even a book title, but they could (say) use it for a heavy metal band, since there’s no chance of confusion there. -rc

  2. Almost sounds like a case of a corporation thinking, “Hey, looks like there’s money to be made at this, but we can’t figure out how. But if we can’t, YOU sure won’t get a chance to do it!”

    If companies spent as much effort at continuing innovative thinking as they do impeding the efforts of competition, we wouldn’t be in any economic crisis.

  3. Couldn’t resist checking if there was a web site currently using ThisJustIn. Evidently, the domain name was passed onto other users who have all failed. The most recent incarnation of TJI.com was a joint venture of AOL/HBO that hosted comedy videos and was described as a poor, early version of FunnyorDie; TJI.com was born February 2007 and expired July 2007. Currently, there is no active site using TJI.com but there is Thisjustinblog.com which describes itself as “This Just In From My Kitchen, My Family, My Life, Baking, Cooking, and Crafting” and shows a pumpkin pie snack mix recipe that looks delish. Seems like TJI was jinxed and what may have been a disappointment to you back in 1995, ended up working out in your favor. Besides, ThisisTrue is absolutely the better name not to mention it has outlasted ThisjustIn by far.

    I do like the title “This Just In”, but agree “This is True” is better! The TJI domain is still owned by AOL, and redirects there. -rc

  4. Out of curiosity after reading the comment from Jackie, I tried tji.com and thisjustin.com in my browser. Both are redirects now: the former to a brand of wooden floor joists, and the latter to the front page of Huffington Post.

    At any rate, I like This is True better anyway. 🙂

  5. Sounds to me like someone at the company saw that you were using the name, and decided they might make some money by trademarking it out from under you, so that you’d have to pay them to use it.

    Bravo that you were able to out-maneuver them.

    I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, so I don’t know if that’s what happened, but all in all I ended up with a better title out of the deal, even though I did like “This Just In”. -rc

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