Sk*rt Forced To Change Name To Avoid Trademark Lawsuit

9 years ago

TThe Trademark Goddesses are on a rampage. Just last week, BlogHer Editor Rita Arens wrote a comprehensive post on the issue of Trademarks and Mommy Bloggers.

On the heels of that essay came the news this week that Sk*rt--the Digg-style site focused on women's content is being forced to change it's their name because of a potential trademark lawsuit.

Earlier this week, the three mommy bloggers who started Sk*rt,Gabrielle Blair, Laura MAyes, and Laurie Smithwick put up a a 24 hour notice on the Sk*rt site informing readers that they were being forced to change their names to avoid a Trademark lawsuit from Skirt magazine which is owned by Morris Publishing-- a Georgia based media conglomerate in radio, newspaper, event marketing, outdoor advertising and magazine publishing.

The notice also said that sk*rt.com was not related to skirt magazine. Sk*rt is being forced to move quickly. And so this week they are running a contest to come up with a new name. From ReadWriteWeb

Here are the 10 names that users are choosing between for the new Sk*rt. Which one is your favorite? Mine's the sixth on this list. Voting ends Friday night at midnight, presumably PST. You can vote on the company blog.

Name: Jupe Domain Name: jupejupe.com or jupeit.com, we can’t decide.

Name: Lemonade (As in when life hands you lemons…)
Domain Name: Lemona.de (Kinda weird because it doesn’t even need a .com, but that’s also why we like it.)

Name: Kirtsy
Domain Name: kirtsy.com

Name: Phlox
Domain Name: phlox.com

Name: Mesosoup
Domain Name: mesosoup.com

Name: SheSaw
Domain Name: shesaw.com

Name: Fierst
Domain Name: fierst.com

Name: GabOHla
Domain Name: gabohla.com

Name:19rocks (The 19th amendment rocks.) Actually this can be 19 anything. Ideas?
Domain Name: 19rocks.com

Name: HolyMoses
Domain Name: holymos.es

According to ReadWriteWeb silicon valley is very interested in this business so the question is, what happened? Earlier this week, I had a conversation with Gabrielle, Laurie and Laura about the name change, what happened, lessons learned and the future.

Just as a bit of background, these three women decided to create Sk*rt before they ever met in person. Their relationship began through blogging. Two of the partners met for the first time face to face at BlogHer '07 in Chicago and the other partners met face to face for the first time at BlogHer business.

In February , 2007 Sk*rt launched its beta. It went live in June and promptly hit the front page of Digg. So much for soft launches. Gabrielle, Laurie and Laura did not immediately apply for a trademark because they actually started Sk*rt before they had an actual business entity.

Nevertheless, they did consult with an attorney. Says Gabrielle,

"Laurie talked to a lawyer who said skirt was a common domain word and she indicated in her professional opinion we were fine."

At the time, Skirt the magazine was operating under the URL skirtmag.com. It was a landing page for a print magazine in a handful of southern cities. There was a URL for skirt.com and that was for selling skirts.

Gabrielle, Laurie and Laura say that after that initial search and the confirmation from their attorney, they didn't give skirt- the magazine a second thought until December 2007 when they were hit with a complaint saying that sk*rt was trying to syphon traffic from the magazine.

What they didn't know at the time was that sometime between their original search, skirt the magazine bought the domain name skirt.com. In September 2007, three months after Sk*rt made the front page of Digg, the repurposed skirt.com launched. Instead of being a launch page for its magazine, the new skirt.com is striving to be an interactive site.

The UDRP arbitration found in favor of Sk*rt.com and Gabrielle, Laurie and Laura thought the threats of lawsuits were behind them. That arbitration cost them half of their entire year's operating budget.

However, Morris Publishing decided to up the anty and sent them a notice that unless they changed their name, they would file a lawsuit for Trademark infringement. After checking with their attorneys and learning that fighting Morris could cost them up to $500,000, the sk*rt chicks decided it was time to move on.

We are just three people. We don't have large funded backers. It didn't feel right.We're pretty peaceful people. The idea of fighting it ut for that that is just a name, just didn't feel right," explained Gabrielle.

Added Laura,

"Frankly it would take a lot of time, money and energy to go into a battle and there is just so much time , money and energy. We don't want to allocate those resources over fighting someone over a hyphen."

The Sk*rt chicks also said that even if they won this court fight they were convinced that Morris Publishing would continue the fight.

And so, they are changing their name. They hope people will vote on their new name. They indicate that as soon as the name in chosen, they will do a new design and think they will be ready to launch a new site in about 48 hours. That's the easy part.

There are about 20,000 users who have links,widgets and Sk*rt buttons on the bottom of blog posts that need to be changed. Those changes will have to make manually.

Laurie is concerned about the rubber band effect. " When there's a long line at a stop light and when the light turns green the first car moves just fine and so does the second car but by the time you get to the 20th car, it may not even move. We move fast but we have to keep looking back and making sure everyone is moving with us. Our goal is to not lose anybody in the switch."

While this has been an emotional time Gabrielle, Laurie and Laura say it was their choice to change the name.

"We want to keep our happy."

Elana blogs about business culture at FunnyBusiness

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