Nordstrom is Using a U.S. PTO Error to Throw a Small Competitor Under the Bus – and What You Can Do About It

by on February 9, 2009 · 10 comments

I’ve gotten an unusually strong reaction to a TechKnowledge piece that went out today describing how the Nordstrom retail chain is capitalizing on a Patent and Trademark Office error to throw a small business under the bus.

Beckons is an organic yoga and lifestyle clothing business that Nordstrom is trying to force off of a trademark – or out of business. It’s owned by two businesswomen in Colorado who have done everything right to get a trademark, but now may have tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills to defend it. The short article is called U.S. Patent and Trademark Office: FAIL.

I wrote about it because I think it’s an outrage. People have written to me since I published it asking what they can do.

Well, there are a couple of things. The original error is with the PTO, so you can send a copy of the story or a link to your Member of Congress. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is within the jurisdiciation of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

But it’s Nordstrom that has really taken advantage of things. And you don’t have to beg for a politician’s help to bring companies to heel. Here’s a four-step plan for helping Beckons beat Goliath. Do one or all of the items listed below.

  1. Send this page to all your friends. That’s probably the most important thing, because the more people doing the other things on this list, the better.
  2. Write a letter to Nordstrom, telling them that you disapprove of their abuse of the trademark process, and that you won’t be shopping there until they mend their ways. Here’s the address for the president of the company.

    Blake W. Nordstrom, President
    Nordstrom, Inc.
    1700 Seventh Avenue, Suite 300
    Seattle, WA 98101

  3. Print this page, copy it, and hand it out at Nordstrom. Or slip copies into the purses they sell – especially any with the “Beckon” label!
  4. If you do yoga, or know anybody who does, shop at Beckons! (Be sure to send this along to friends who do yoga.)

So those are just a few ideas for getting Nordstrom to correct its abuse of the trademark process against this small business. Please feel free to put additional ideas or report on your successes in the comments. (Got a sample letter to Nordstrom, for example?)

A well-functioning marketplace requires assertive consumers – so assert yourself!

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