When I started this blog in September 2009 I fully intended to write about law now and again.
As time went on I realised that you were all a lot more interested in my shoes than the law. Much of the time, I would say this about myself too hence why up until now, I haven’t discussed any of the legal cases that I am involved with.
Part of the reason that I don’t blog about my legal cases (other than client confidentiality) is that most of the time the practice of law is hard slow painstaking work and completely unlike Ally McBeal, Boston Legal or Harry’s Law. Rather than swanning in and writing ‘just won a million dollar settlement in court today’ I’d be more likely to write ‘revised 400 page contract. Woke up in a puddle of my own saliva 2 hours later with my cheek on page 295 and a red pen up my nose‘.
Now and again though, cases come through the doors at work which remind my boss and I why it is that we do what we do. For those of you who don’t know we are IP/IT and media/entertainment lawyers. If some multinational corporation swings in and steals your intellectual property (as a major fast food chain did to one of our clients recently) we will go into battle for you and we will win. It’s the one time that we feel a bit like the legal avengers that we studied law to become.
Yesterday I got a distressed message from my favourite shoe blogger, Amber McNaught aka Shoeperwoman of the Shoeper Shoe Challenge. You can see her badge on the right hand side of this post. In my opinion Shoeperwoman represents all that is good about the blogging community. Her Shoeper Challenge has acted as the catalyst for me to meet and be encouraged and inspired by other people who love shoes and clothes as much as I do. A lot of people are inspired by Amber. Some of them are so inspired that they seek to copy or impersonate her. Amber has dealt with these incidents with humour and grace.
It came as huge shock to me to find out yesterday that she has encountered yet another imposter. This one is not only seeking to impersonate Amber but basically to prevent her from blogging under her alter ego – Shoeperwoman. Rather than put words into her mouth, I am posting her story below. Please read it and lend your support in the best way that bloggers can – by writing about it.
I do often wonder though, why so many people persist in doing the wrong thing and try to bully someone out of protecting their hard won trade mark rights rather than do the right thing and concede early in the piece. Perhaps Laura Blake has more money than sense or perhaps like many people she just thought it would be easier to rip someone else off than to come up with her own ideas.
(First of all, the Shoeper Shoe Challenge roundup will not be appearing today as my time has been totally taken up with the issue below. My apologies to everyone who’s sent me photos – I promise I will publish them on Monday. In the meantime, I would really appreciate your comments and re-tweets on this post…)
I had really hoped not to have to write this post, but having exhausted my other options I’ve taken legal advice (from the wonderful Caveat Calcei, who you all know from the Shoe Challenge), and feel I have no option but to go public about an issue regarding the “Shoeperwoman” name and this site.
As most of my regular readers will know, I set up Shoeperwoman two years ago this month, having registered the domain in May of 2008 and spent a year planning the site. At the time there were no other sites using the name. Earlier this year, however, a UK-based company launched a shoe blog called “Shoeper-woman” and an associated retail website of the same name.
(Not my blog)
I don’t really want to link to these sites as I feel they are damaging enough to my brand without me helping their Google rank, but you can see the address of the retail site from the image above and the blog can be found at shoeper-woman.blogspot.com (note: all of the links in this post are nofollow, and this is the only time I will link to these sites.)
First of all, I want to clarify that these sites have absolutely no connection to Shoeperwoman.com or to Midas Media.
I realise it’s confusing for people as they are using the same name, and writing about the same subjects, often in exactly the same way (i.e. using phrases like “shoeper-hero”, “Shoeper-man” etc.) but there is no connection, so please know that this is the only “Shoeperwoman” site run by us (with the exception of our associated Twitter and Facebook accounts, which also use the “Shoeperwoman” name), therefore if you come across these sites, or any others, please be aware that they have nothing to do with us.
The other company is also using the name “Shoeper-woman” on Twitter, Facebook and other sites, which I realise adds to the confusion. If you are in any doubt whether something you read online is being said by me, or by Laura Blake, who is the owner of the other sites, please feel free to get in touch.
When I found out about these sites, I immediately contacted Laura Blake, who tells me that she does not believe there is any issue with her using exactly the same name as me for her two sites (although she has put up a disclaimer today which you can read on her blog). Obviously I’m disappointed about this. I set up Shoeperwoman.com two years ago: it is my livelihood (along with my other blogs), and Terry and I have worked very hard to build up the brand to where it is today. It’s disheartening, to say the least, to find that someone has knowingly decided to use exactly the same name and idea for a very similar project (Laura tells me she was aware of the existence of this site but decided to use the name regardless), and obviously this will make it much harder for both of the respective businesses to thrive, as rather than having our own unique identities, these two new sites have effectively set themselves up in direct competition to us instead.
(Not my Shoeperman…)
What Laura didn’t tell me during our lengthy email conversations, was that not only has she knowingly used a name which has been associated with my blog for the past two years, she has also applied for the UK trademark to the name “Shoeper-woman”. If she is successful in this application, this would mean that I would no longer be able to use the name I have made mine, and this site will effectively cease to exist. As the revenue from this site forms a large part of my income, I’m sure you can understand my distress at this, and the reason I’m writing this post.
To answer the obvious question that has cropped up in relation to this: no, we do not own the trademark to the name “Shoeperwoman”. We looked into doing this when we launched the site, however the very high cost of this was prohibitive for us, as it is for most other bloggers, and so we were forced to rely on the goodwill and common sense of our fellow bloggers/site owners, and to hope that most people would prefer to create something that’s truly their own rather than to duplicate another brand. Obviously that isn’t always the case: some of you may remember the issues Jennine Jacob’s The Coveted encountered recently when another site launched using the same name, and if this can happen to me, and can happen to a well-known blogger like Jennine, it can happen to anyone.
We have now lodged our own trademark application for the name, which means we’re already hundreds of pounds out of pocket in our bid to assert our right to continue to use a name which has been associated with this site for two years now, and which I have also used on Twitter, Facebook and other sites for the same length of time. Having taken advice on this, we believe it could cost us much more to defend our brand, which is obviously causing us a great deal of stress. This is where you come in:
How you can help Shoeperwoman:
Obviously this is a source of huge concern to us, so we would welcome any support our readers and friends have to offer us, in the shape of comments, re-tweets and advice.
If you are a blogger, and would like to mention this issue on your site, I would be eternally grateful, not just for my sake, but because as I mentioned above, this is something that can happen to anyone, and it is devastating to work so hard on something for so long, only to see it put at risk like this. Also, any links back to Shoeperwoman.com (especially those using the word “Shoeperwoman” as the link text) would be a huge help to us right now as they will help cement our position in search engines and support our right to the trademark when we file our dispute.
I also want to say a big thank you to everyone who has emailed Terry and I with their support over this issue: it really means the world to us to know that we have loyal readers who will continue to support us no matter how many other ”Shoeperwomen” crop up!