Baaaah-lieve it! Lars Johnson  of the Al Johnson Swedish Restaurant in  Sister Bay, Wisconsin trademarked the grazing goats on their roof as a marketing tool to attract business 14 years ago. In fact visitors come from hundreds of miles away to dine and hang out with these hairy celebs of sorts. And he is not sheepish about having his law fire off a cease and desist letter no matter where you run your restaurant in the US. Got goats and grub and the two are helping you win customers? The goats got to go. Read the full story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week.

The argument around his Mr. Johnson’s rights stem from, if one registers a concept or activity with the US trademark department and some other business is imitating that concept in the same business category and customers are confused,  case closed or prepare to spend a bunch arguing about it.

While this situation seems pretty straight forward, today large companies, with lots of lawyers looking for something to do, will send cease and desist letters to small startups when there is no clear confusion, however, if the little guy wants fight for his turf, he will spend a lot to prove there is no infringement, followed by confusion. Which can really suck. I’ve been there.

Moral to this branding story

  • Do your home work on names, logos, brandable and protectable concepts (can be a sound, smell, tune, or grazing goats).
  • Weigh out your risks, before you dive in.
  • Do the math, a trademark fight can costs boat load of cash and be a time waster too.
  • If you’ve got a name, logo or marketing element that will distinguish you and serve as a tool to market, trademark it!

Yes, you can register a trademark yourself, but often it’s very time consuming conducting the research and can get complex managing categories and monitoring offenders etc.,  Attorneys are can bring unique value, but can easily run up a hefty bill. If your situation is complicated, you should explore working with legal counsel.  Need help hiring a lawyer? However, sometimes a non lawyer trademark consultant is sufficient and can cost less. I’ve worked with Carol Desmond with Trade Marks to Go on many projects and was very happy with her work.

Also check out: The 5th element to a successful marketing mix.

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