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Reprinted from: 

The Tartan
Carnegie Mellon University

24 September 2001

Business Assault on speech

University research outfit becomes latest target in
Entrepreneur Magazine's four-year trademark attack

by Vivek Sridharan

Is it possible to own a word in the English language? Entrepreneur Media, Inc. (publisher of Entrepreneur Magazine) has been attempting to do just that, by stretching the boundaries of trademark law and laying sole claim to the word "entrepreneur." Entrepreneur Magazine claims that they alone have the right to use "entrepreneur" in the field of printed publications, and that they have been using the mark for over 20 years. What's more is that they have been successful in their attacks, forcing dozens of companies and publications to change their names. However, at least one company is fighting back.

Scott Smith, CEO of BizStarz (formerly EntrepreneurPR), which provides media exposure for entrepreneurs, is currently appealing the forced name change of his company. Smith said, "A very significant part of Entrepreneur Magazine's legal strategy is, 'It doesn't matter what you think, or if we are even wrong, you cannot afford the legal cost to fight us'."

Therefore, Smith is on a mission backed by nearly 300,000 small business owners to save the word "entrepreneur." Smith was no stranger to Entrepreneur Magazine before this, as the magazine was one of his most important media contacts for his clients. "In fact, they even featured me, EntrepreneurPR and Entrepreneur Illustrated in one of their magazines while at the same time suing me for using the word 'entrepreneur' as part of my company name, domain name, and book name," Smith said.

Entrepreneur Magazine's vast efforts have not been lost on Carnegie Mellon, as a few weeks ago, the Graduate School of Industrial Administration's Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship received a "cease and desist" order to stop publishing their newsletter, "The Entrepreneur," under its current name. S. Thomas Emerson, Director of the Donald H. Jones Center, was more surprised than anything else, commenting, "It appears that we are within the scope of the aggressive efforts of Entrepreneur Magazine to monopolize the word 'entrepreneur.'" As to why they are attacking the DHJ Center's alumni newsletter, Henry Bissell, lawyer for Entrepreneur Media, writes, "We consider... 'The Entrepreneur' to be a flagrant infringement of our client's trademark rights. The marks are identical and the goods fall in the same class: publications. Likelihood of confusion is inescapable." To Bissell, entrepreneurs would be confused between Entrepreneur Magazine, a 20-year-old institution, and 'The Entrepreneur,' a CMU alumni newsletter consisting of six pages in two colors.

Entrepreneur Magazine has taken the position that they are simply defending their trademark. Peter Shea, CEO of Entrepreneur Media, claims "It's not that we are suing everybody for using the word. Time is in the dictionary, but Time Magazine would sue anybody who started publishing Time Illustrated."

Smith doesn't buy that argument, asking, "Can you imagine Golf Magazine suing other golf magazines like Golf Digest or Golf Illustrated just for using the word 'golf'?"

As strange as that seems, what confounds most people is that they are suing their own target audience. Entrepreneur Magazine is read mainly by small business owners, academics, and entrepreneurs themselves. Just as they sued Smith after featuring him in their magazine, they have also gone after Stardock, a company publishing a computer game called "Entrepreneur" after featuring them in a 1997 issue.

"Of course, their legal strategy has been very upsetting to entrepreneurs worldwide, and has tremendously damaged Entrepreneur Magazine's reputation," says Smith, "What's their ultimate goal, stopping everyone else from using the word 'entrepreneur,' the only word that properly describes the same market they profess to support?"

Walt DeForest, University Legal Counsel, agrees. "I think that there may be ways to try to persuade them that we're not acting in an improper manner," he said. When asked why Entrepreneur Magazine is going after CMU, he said, "I believe that the holder of a mark will try to assure that others don't use it so that they don't lose it." At the same time, he firmly thinks that readers will not be confused between CMU's newsletter and Entrepreneur Magazine.

CMU currently has three options: Comply by changing the title, join Smith in fighting against Entrepreneur Media, or try to work out some compromise with the company. DeForest will leave the decision to Emerson and the DHJ center. "The only real issue is whether the Don Jones Center should go through with the burden of litigation."

Interesting to note is the unequivocal support Smith has received from the Institute of Entrepreneurial Excellence, part of the University of Pittsburgh's Katz School of Business.

"Entrepreneur" is a word with no real synonyms, making it very hard to convey the same meaning without actually using the word in a publication. In fact, over 250 book titles begin with "entrepreneur" as well as many domain names and other publications. Within the next week, CMU will decide on its course of action. Emerson sounds like a man ready for battle. "We could be more restrictive in our name: The CMU Entrepreneur," he says, "but to exclude us from the right to the use of the word 'entrepreneur' in our view seems to be excessive. 'Entrepreneur' is part of the English language."

Disclaimer: All pages within iventure's are expressions of the opinions of iventure only, and may in fact contain errors. It is only our desire to provoke interest in our readers, who are in turn encouraged to conduct further research on their own. This site is not related to: Ohio Entrepreneur Magazine, Entrepreneur Media, Entrepreneur Magazine, Entrepreneur of the Year, Entrepreneur's Partner, Hispanic Entrepreneur,,, Entrepreneur's Only, The Entrepreneur's Source, Entrepreneur's Notebook or any of the many companies that use the word entrepreneur in there trade name.