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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    Matt (profile), 23 Sep 2009 @ 11:24am


    Haven't looked, but it may be a service mark issue (not a trademark,) in which case the marketable service is presumably reporting and counseling.

    If "frugalista" is used as an adjective, I agree with you as to its use as a descriptive word. If it is used as a title, I disagree. "I am the Frugalista!" does not make "frugalista" descriptive. The trouble, here, is that "frugalista" is clearly _generic_. Generic words cannot be trade- or service-marks.

    Incidentally, descriptive words _can_ be trademarks, once they acquire secondary meaning. Think of it this way: Blue Jean Babies might be a line of stuffed dolls made from denim. "Blue Jean Babies" is merely descriptive of the dolls - they are blue denim depictions of babies. But if the manufacturer is able to infuse that with secondary meaning, so people associate "Blue Jean Babies" with a particular source or origin, then they can register the mark.

    Misdescriptive words often cannot, and deceptively misdescriptive words never can be registered. There is a (mostly funny) argument that "frugalista" is deceptively misdescriptive of anyone who would pay what it costs (generally around $3500+) to obtain a trademark registration on a generic word.

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