Yes, I Have a REAL Business Too

posted by Andrea | 07/15/2011

When I started my organizing business nearly 4 years ago, I was extrememly apprehensive to answer the question, “So what do you do for a living?”

I didn’t feel like I had a REAL business… but then I started making money and that put an end to my apprehension!

However, when I started blogging {just about one year ago} I immediately felt that apprehension return. I had absolutely NO idea what being a “blogger” really meant, all I knew was that I wanted to help others simplify and organize their lives — and hopefully find a few more clients for my growing organizing business.

I soon realized that blogging was a REAL business too.

I absolutely loved running my organizing business…so it was no surprise that I immediately fell in love with my new blogging business as well. I loved meeting new people, learning from other bloggers, interacting with my readers, sharing my passion for simplicity and organization with anyone who wanted to listen — and I loved working from home :)

My website was growing, I was making  money, I had lots of new clients, and a whole bunch of awesome blogging friends. I was really starting to get the hang of things…

And then I got THE letter.

About two months ago, I recieved a letter from a HUGE company {that will remain nameless} accusing me of a pretty hefty trademark violation.

They said that my business name “Simple Organized Living, LLC” and my website URL used certain words that they had trademarked and basically insisted that I shut down my entire business!

Seriously! A whole year of building my website and nearly 4 years growing my business… gone!

Yup, I was just a little scared — and super intimidated by the professional-looking letter that came from this huge company.

I immediately turned to the West Michigan Bloggers group for advice and they referred me to Sara Hawkins — a fellow blogger AND lawyer who knows a ton about “blog law”. She was kind enough to give me a ton of pro-bono advice via email and really encouraged me to fight back.

Then I contacted, Shawn Eyestone, an excellent lawyer who helped make sense of all the legal jargon in my letter and discovered that I was NOT infringing on any of the accused trademark violations! He helped me draft a professional letter that clearly stated why I was not doing anything illegal. The letter included an “Executive Summary”, a “Legal Analysis”, and a whole bunch of other fancy lawyer terms from Shawn! We ended the letter by saying:

“I trust that this issue will be resolved quickly and quietly, and that all parties involved will continue doing business “as is”. Thanks for your understanding and please contact me within 10 business days if you have any further questions or concerns.”

It’s been almost two months… and I haven’t heard a thing!

 

The morals of the story::

1. Don’t sell yourself short.

Whether you’re a blogger, a small business owner, or something else… you have a REAL business too! Register your domain, register an LLC {or something else to protect your personal assets}, make sure you aren’t infringing on any trademarks or copyrights, and make sure others aren’t infringing on any trademarks or copyrights you have.

2. Don’t let big names and money scare you.

I was super scared when I got that letter from a huge company with lots of money. I figured I would just have to shut down my business and start over again. But then I realized, that the only reason they were coming after me {nearly a year after I started my blog and 4 years after starting my business} was because I was finally big enough to scare them! My website was showing up as #1 on Google search engines and theirs was further down the list :)

3. Don’t be afraid to fight back — WITH help.

I am an extremely competitive person and I don’t like to lose. EVER! Thankfully, I had the help of a great lawyer, along with the support of my wonderful blogging friends who all encouraged me to fight back against the big company, even though I was SO scared. I was respectful, I was understanding, but I knew they were wrong and I wasn’t willing to throw my business away just because I was too afraid to fight back.

What about you??

Are you are a blogger, a writing, a small business owner, a crafter, a sewer, or an Etsy shop seller? Take the proper actions to protect your business {even if it is small right now}. After all, you have a REAL business too!

If you have any questions about legal issues, please share them in the comments and maybe another reader will be able to answer them. And if you have any great advice on dealing with legal issues — please share it with us!

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11 comments

  1. Brenda @ a farmgirl's dabbles

    07/15/2011

    Yay for you, Andrea!! :)

    [Reply]

  2. Jessica

    07/15/2011

    I am racking my brain to figure out which company it could be! Either they’re not as big as they want to be since they’re not coming to mind, or they can’t be too similar to your business’s name.

    Also, it seems ridiculous to me that someone can trademark a word (rather than a combination of words)…does that mean that once one business uses the word “simple” that no other company can ever use it? I could see being upset if a combination of words was copied, but individual words? Come on.

    Anyway, I’m glad you didn’t give up. Congrats on a positive outcome!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — you’re too funny Jessica! They are a huge company, but nothing blog related — so you probably won’t think of them :)
    And yes, it is ridiculous to think of trademarking specific words…so silly.

    [Reply]

  3. Cassie

    07/15/2011

    Oh my gosh! I am so sorry this happened to you but good for you for fighting back!! You are awesome! I do have a question though. How do you register your domain or website or shop?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Cassie, all I meant when I said “register your domain” is for people who DON’t already have their domains purchase to do so.

    I know a lot of small business owners or people who are thinking of starting up a business who don’t have a website yet. It only costs a few dollars to buy a domain name /URL and then you have it…it’s yours! I have purchased several domain names for website and business ideas I have brewing, but I’m not using them yet. I just want to know I own them…just in case!

    [Reply]

    Cassie Reply:

    Ah okay! Thanks for clearing that up. I was a little bit confused. :)

    [Reply]

  4. Katy (KatySheCooks)

    07/15/2011

    So glad to hear you fought them! This kind of thing is actually quite common, I’ve heard lots of stories (one that happened to my sister, over a blog name!). The sad thing is that most people, if they don’t have the resources, just bow out in fear. Nice to chalk one up to the small biz for a change ; )

    [Reply]

  5. sabriena

    07/15/2011

    I’m thinking this big business is of the magazine variety? I’m glad you fought back and didn’t roll over for them. Good for you!

    [Reply]

  6. Catie

    07/15/2011

    Glad to hear it worked out ok! Way to not back down!

    Btw – your hair is so cute! :)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    hehe — thanks Catie :) It’s a super easy style to maintain!

    [Reply]

  7. JoDi

    07/15/2011

    You GO girl!! What nerve! I’ve honestly never associated the name of your business with the name of any other well-known company. I’m SO glad you consulted experts to help you put an end to this quickly and didn’t just back down! They’re lucky you didn’t publish the name of the company because they’d lose a lot of business for sure!

    [Reply]

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