from the longshots dept
In the past, we’ve covered the rather despicable actions of Entrepreneur Magazine, acting as a trademark bully and going after real entrepreneurs for using the word “entrepreneur” in various ways. It seems counter to the magazine’s mission of celebrating entrepreneurs to sue others making use of the word. Unfortunately, Entrepreneur Magazine has actually been somewhat successful in many of these lawsuits. Scott Smith, who has been in a decade-and-a-half-long tussle with Entrepreneur Magazine, has recently added a new legal effort to the long history between them: he’s suing Entrepreneur Magazine for supposed “fraud” on the trademark office. Among the claims Smith is making:
- April 1999: EMI filed sworn documents with the PTO claiming that it was currently using the Entrepreneur Expo name, even though EMI ceased doing so several years earlier.
- February 2006: EMI submitted a staged photo to deceive the PTO into believing that EMI was still using the name Entrepreneur Expo. The photo was staged by tricking EMI’s then editor to pose in front of a low-budget sign that read, “Welcome to Entrepreneur Expo.”
- December 2003 and August 2006: EMI tried to cover up its fraudulent activities by filing new Entrepreneur Expo trademark applications, but eventually abandoned those efforts.
- November 2006: EMI submitted the same marketing piece it had previously submitted in May 1999, to deceive the PTO into believing that EMI was still using its “small business expo” trademark. But Scott discovered that EMI goofed-up by leaving its old address – for an office EMI had moved out of by at least February 2000 – exposed.
- November 2010: EMI submitted sworn documents claiming that it was currently using the Entrepreneur Expo name. EMI deceived the PTO by slapping an Entrepreneur EXPO logo onto its Facebook page for its 2011 Growth Conference.
- May 2011: EMI deliberately failed to renew its “small business expo” trademark to escape Scott’s fraud claims and avoid judgment.
A few points on this: Smith is filing his lawsuit pro se (i.e., by himself, without a lawyer), which is quite frequently a big warning sign for a lawsuit that may be pretty weak (though that’s not always the case). Also, in the 14 years or so that Smith and Entrepreneur Magazine have been going through legal disputes, Smith’s track record is not good. Entrepreneur Magazine basically keeps winning, over and over again.
That said, beyond the ongoing oddness of Entrepreneur Magazine suing an entrepreneur, it’s difficult to see how “entrepreneur expo” isn’t a generic term. Doing a quick Google search turns up a ton of examples of the phrase “entrepreneur expo,” with most of them not appearing to be associated with Entrepreneur Magazine at all. Smith also claims that the magazine itself has not been using the mark.
Given the history here, it seems like Smith has a pretty big hill to climb to convince a court of this one, but even if that’s the case, the whole thing just looks bad for Entrepreneur Magazine. There certainly is a lot of focus on trademarks these days, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to go after actual entrepreneurs.