The last few weeks at Capsule have been intense as we wrap up another naming project. (We've written about our naming process before at The Dieline if you're interested.) So it's especially interesting to see a conflict about naming in the media at the moment; in this case, a small Minneapolis non-profit named Project Legos has found itself under the scrutiny of toy company the LEGO Group. From the Star Tribune: ... the lawsuit charges Project Legos with unfair competition, trademark dilution, deceptive trade practices and cybersquatting -- using domain names that are "confusingly similar'' to LEGO toy company. The suit asks that Project Legos stop using its name and Web domains, and that it pay LEGO attorney fees and other damages.
Ouch. Trademark law is a murkily complicated area, and although we definitely are not lawyers at Capsule we have to maintain an understanding of the key elements to ensure that the names we're presenting to our clients are as legally appropriate as possible. At the core of trademark law is something called likelihood of confusion, a subjective concept used to analyze trademarks for potential conflicts.
There are very obvious similarities between the name LEGO as applied to a toy brand and the name Project Legos as used for a youth empowerment non-profit; this is true despite the fact that in the non-profit's case, Legos stands for Leadership, Empowerment, Growth, Opportunity and Sustainability. It's unfortunate that an organization doing such good work locally is going through this disruptive process, of course; however, the LEGO Group must rigorously protect itself from any future potential naming infringements by taking a hard stance on this instance, no matter how insignificant a non-profit of six employees may seem by comparison.
We feel for the little guy. Hopefully this case helps future non-profits avoid the same mistake.