Be careful of who contact to grow your business…
In 2012, things we starting out great for us. We launched BladeButter™, an all-natural product that extends the life of razors. My friend was helping me with the PR and marketing. He thought there might be some synergies with Dollar Shave Club for private labeling our proven blade oil. We never heard back from them but a few months after the initial contact, Dollar Shave Club filed a trademark for “Dr. Carver’s Easy Shave Butter.” The fact that the word ‘butter’ was in the name was no coincidence. We had accidentally fueled the naming of their new product. Next, DSC proceeded to borrow marketing concepts and verbiage as well.
I was livid, but I had no legal recourse. As a big company, DSC knew exactly how to “borrow” without consequences. What they really wanted were the marketing angles that the word “butter” offers. Butter is slick and smooth. That’s great imagery for a shaving company marketing team to exploit. To protect themselves from infringing on my BladeButter™ trademark, they created a very unique and long product name… “Dr. Carver’s Easy Shave Butter.” That made it easier for them to obtain a trademark without protest. Proving that they hijacked my marketing verbiage is easy on the surface, but hard to prove in a court of law. They know that. I’m the little guy that would be bled dry with legal fees and never-ending court battles.
In an attempt to protect myself, I always do a Google search for similar products before I name my mine. Once I’ve narrowed down possible names, I do a USPTO TESS Search to make sure I’m not infringing on other trademarks. I also perform domain searches to make sure the possible names are available before finalizing my product names. I prefer domains that end in dot com rather than dot net, dot info, etc. In this case, none of this mattered because it was the big company that didn’t do their research. In a weird, but related incident a company in Tampa formed a marketing and design firm called Dash Creative. They didn’t do their research either. If they did, they would have found that I’ve had DashMKTG, a marketing and design firm working in the same area. My web traffic ids up and my phone rings a lot more than usual thanks to their billboards. I’m not sure if they’ve figured that out yet.
In a strange way, it’s a compliment. I like DSC. I think their success was well-deserved. I’ve been a customer in the past and always had a great experience. I liked DSC’s Shave Butter a lot, but it has some very sketchy ingredients like Propanediol, Cylcopentasiloxane and Retinyl Palmitate. As a product developer, I knew I could make a better product so I created BladeButter™ Brand ShaveJelly. It’s all-natural with 88% of the ingredients being certified organic. It’s also super slick, but non-greasy. Everyone knows that jelly is sweeter than butter and it delivers great shaves that are much safer for your skin. Our ShaveJelly product just had a nice write-up in MensJournal.
To fellow entrepreneurs, this is a cautionary tale. There are people and businesses that won’t hesitate to “borrow” ideas from you. If you have a good idea, it’s bound to be hijacked. Just look at what’s going on with Kickstarter. Be careful out there. Aim to become the big company that doesn’t borrow names or concepts from others. Become the big company that lends a hand to entrepreneurs, instead of taking from them.