A Hundred Monkeys prevails in trademark infringement case
by Danny Altman
A few months back we were featured in an AP wire story that appeared in 200 papers across the country. It must have been a slow news day. And the headline (“Monkey See, Monkey Sue”) probably didn’t hurt. The AP reported that we had filed a complaint for trademark infringement in the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee against a Wisconsin public relations firm that decided it would be a cool idea to use our name with a slight variation: 100 Monkeys.
What made the case interesting for us, aside from the fact that someone was stepping on our toes, is that what we do for a living is work with clients to find them names that are unique and protectible. It’s not easy, but why should any business invest all that time and money building a brand that they don’t really own? Since we actually believe this stuff, that’s the route we took with our own name.
So it was time for us to put our money where our mouth was. We asked 100 Monkeys to change their name and they said no. So we had to bite the bullet and get lawyered up. Because, as your third grade teacher explained, if you let one person get away with it, that will only embolden others to follow. Facing a serious Milwaukee law firm and the threat of treble damages if the plaintiff holds a federal trademark, which we do, they backed down and decided to change their name.
What’s the moral of the story? Your name is very close to the heart of your business. Make sure you pick a name that will belong to nobody but you because it looks pretty silly to change jerseys in the middle of the game.