Monday, March 29, 2010

Mr. Change?

Ha! And you thought this entry was going to be about the sitting president. Actually, it's about me...or my blog rather.

You may have noticed a change in my blog. Specifically, the title has changed from its previous value to what it is now. The reason for the change came in the form of a Cease and Desist letter that I received on Friday in the mail claiming that I was improperly using a trademarked expression of the client of the law firm sending me the letter.

Google made it easy for me to see that the expression was indeed in use. Being the upstanding citizen that I am, I immediately changed the title of the blog and faxed over a response indicating that I was in compliance with their request. But then something funny happened...

...a number of years ago, I was jilted out of a substantial amount of money owed to me as an independent contractor by the company that placed me at the company where I was working. During the back and forth between the placement company and I, I contacted a cousin who is a lawyer for a prominent law firm who agreed to draw up a legal sounding letter based on what I told him. Even though what I said to him was in actuality true, he required no documentation proving it before writing the letter and mailing it to the other party.

Fast forward to the present: remembering how I got my cousin to send a letter as someone who claimed to be my legal representation, I wondered if something similar was happening here, i.e. not everything was "on the up and up." I visited the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and found out that the expression was indeed trademarked...but not by the business being represented by the law firm that sent me the letter.

In good faith, I am keeping the new title since a) a web search at the USPTO isn't a guarantee that the results are 100% accurate and b) someone owns the trademark whether it is company A or B. It isn't me, in any case. But I sent back a second letter tonight with a request for documentation supporting their claim, with the added statement that I may take legal action against them for "wrongful claim of infringement," recourse that is afforded people like me in situations just like this.

I have no problem with legal compliance. It is not my intention, after all, to use what is not mine or to cause possible harm to the brand of another company in these mindless wanderings that I call a blog. However, I do expect a minimum degree of honesty if you're going to demand anything of me and - as of this writing - it seems that minimum standard was not met. So en guarde Miss O'Conner because the ball is back in your court, and I've just upped the ante.

What does this have to do with business? The answer should be obvious, but here it is spelled out just in case.

There is nothing wrong with embellishing the truth to favor yourself. In fact, sales people often do just this, i.e. tell the truth without being accurate or while being intentionally misleading. I can remember one sales presentation where it was said "30% - 70% of your time is spent doing this." Hello? That's a 40% swing, and right in the middle of the Gaussian bell curve at that. What that message said was nothing short of pure bunk, but that's the fun of sales.

While it is expected in certain situations that you are going to view yourself with rose colored glasses, it is another matter entirely when you are going to try to claim something is true; that the government, your boss, your spouse, etc. is going to back you up; and you are lying. If the person calls your bluff - and they have every right to do so if you're making demands of them - then not only will your lie be exposed but you will have lost a huge amount of credibility.

Trust is not something that should be taken lightly, especially in a business sense. Toyota (a-Ha! I knew I could find a way to tie this in with the last two blog entries!) has found this out the hard way, but there's no reason why you should too.

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