Frugalista! Frugalista! Frugalista! Now... Where's My Cease And Desist?

from the this-is-getting-silly dept

The term "frugalista" is apparently quite popular, such that the word has even been defined by the Oxford English Dictionary. There are a bunch of bloggers who write about "frugal living" who refer to themselves as "frugalistas." It was a nice little community... until a trademark claim entered into the mess. William alerts us to the news that a blogger (who established her blog long after the word was in common usage) has trademarked the term and is having her lawyer send cease-and-desist letters to other bloggers who refer to themselves as frugalistas. A US News reporter asked the woman's lawyer how it could possibly make sense that she could go after people who used the term before her client did, and the lawyer's response was:
"they all have to stop now."
Except... no. That's not quite how trademark works. But, once again, in a society where people think they get to claim ownership of whatever they want, we end up in silly situations like this. Hopefully the threatened bloggers are able to stand up to the bullying frugalista. Who knew that living the frugalista lifestyle included trademark infringement suits?

Filed Under: blogging, frugalista, trademark


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  1. icon
    Ima Fish (profile), 23 Sep 2009 @ 9:52am

    McDowell (the blogger's attorney) emphasizes that other writers can still use the word "frugalista" in their stories—which may seem obvious, given the fact that it is a commonly used word—but that they cannot identify themselves as a "frugalista."

    There's a couple things wrong here. First, what market is supposed to be protected by the use of the trademark "frugalista"? The trademark "Apple" protects the market of various consumer electronic devices. What is "frugalista" protecting?

    Secondly, identifying myself as "frugalista" could never violate a trademark. A person is rarely a product in a market. For example, I can freely identify myself as a Apple lover or Apple-head to show my love of Apple's products. That could not be a trademark violation because no one could ever confuse me with an iPod or an operating system. Plus the simple fact that I'm not a product in commerce.

    Lastly, trademarks cannot be merely descriptive. If "frugalista" means a person who practices a frugal lifestyle, there is simply no way someone could trademark the term to keep people from using it to describe a frugal lifestyle.

    Think of it this way, Apple was able to use the term "apple" as a trademark, because it is not in the apple business. However, if I had an orchard I could not trademark the word "apple" and keep others from referring to apples as apples.

    I'm assuming her lawyer knows nothing about trademark law.

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