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 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!
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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.