Response to C&D Letter
This letter serves as my notice to you that I intend to comply with your demand that I cease and desist from using the word “frugalista” on my blog, currently named “JacksonFrugalista.” I will change the name by Wednesday, September 30, 2009.
I want to make it clear to you, though, I am doing this for one reason only – I don’t want to pay the $600 filing fees required to lodge formal opposition to the relevant trademark applications. You see, a TRUE “frugalista” shies away from silly expenditures. The idea of paying $600 to fight for my freedom of online speech ranks as one of the silliest uses of my hard-earned money that I can imagine.
I am sure some part of you understands my revulsion at someone owning a word. Not a brand name, not a product name, not a service name – not even the ACTUAL name of the mark-holder’s blog – but a simple word. I’d discuss what our Founding Fathers might have thought of such foolishness, but, heck, for all I know, someone owns those words, too.
So, you win the battle.
But about the war ….
It’s been really, really interesting. Since I received your “Cease and Desist” letter (attached), I have been in touch with dozens of writers and blogs across the country. They find the claim of sole ownership of a WORD to be laughable at best, offensive and un-American at worst. Many wrote to me on how this fight could be fought without spending $600.
(By the way, I’ve corresponded with some others you’ve sent cease and desist letters to – NOT a happy group of people!)
The suggestions have been pretty creative. For instance, someone recommended creating HUNDREDS of blogs with the word “frugalista” in the title and then advertising the blogs to one and all. Each blog would have that-word-that-shall-not-be-used in the blog name and a SINGLE POST.
I’ll bet you can figure out what the suggested content of that post was. It would tell a story of a person who one day decided to trademark a general-use, generic, descriptive-without-holding-secondary-meaning word so she could then threaten the nice people all over the country who wanted to share news of local thrifty-shopping tips with their friends and neighbors online.
Boy, imagine the loss of goodwill for that word-master. Goodwill is important for anyone trying to carve out a career in mass media, or who has a book coming out in 2011. And how much would the attorneys’ fees be for THAT MANY cease and desist letters?
Of course, that was just a suggestion by one of my new online friends. I didn’t come up with it.
Then there was the person who thought we should bombard the Miami Herald with letters protesting the fundamentally unfair actions by one of their bloggers until that august institution chooses to do a story about mean people who claim to own words. Of course, those letters would be copied to the US Office of Trademarks and Patents, and probably a bunch of congressmen.
I doubt even THAT strategy would work, but it would get the story out even wider, wouldn’t it?
Again, that’s a suggestion by a local blogger who has about 100,000 people following him on Twitter. I’d never try it, but if he does … WOW!
My personal preference is for some sort of educational effort. People need to understand what a “frugalista” is:
- The word, first used online by “Sweet Gal” in 2000 and in commerce by the Palm Beach Post in 2005 (not January 31, 2008, as the trademark application states) is defined as “a person who is fashionable while being thrifty.” It’s even on Wikipedia – did they get a cease and desist letter, by the way?
- A frugalista loves deals, but loves sharing tips about deals even more – the most important characteristic of a frugalista is generosity. Frugality minus generosity just makes a person cheap.
- A frugalista knows that “frugal” has many different meanings to many different people and seeks the knowledge that best fits his/her situation. For example, a frugalista in Jackson, Mississippi, would NEVER, in a million years, look for information on local deals in a Miami-based blog – nor would a Miami frugalista confuse Jackson-specific information about a church rummage sale with the exploits of someone who goes a month without a manicure.
Sorry, I have to pause for a minute. A month without nail salon services. WHAT SACRIFICE! Oh, the humanity! Makes all that consignment store shopping others do seem almost fanciful in comparison!
- A frugalista is smart, opinionated, active, and creative. A frugalista doesn’t back away from a fight just because lawyers are involved, though said frugalista might rely on nontraditional ways of fighting. Doesn’t matter if it’s a fight for those 25-cent hardback best-sellers at the Goodwill store, or his/her right to share useful information with others who might be hurting in this time of economic downturn and need to know about good deals.
- Finally, a frugalista isn’t selfish with, rude to, or threatening towards another frugalista – unless the other one started it.
You see, true frugalistadom is a community – a collection of people who seek to make their lives nicer in these days of little coin by losing their pretentions, their hang-ups, and their fears of pretty-darned-cheap shopping. We CAN express our champagne tastes on beer budgets with a little practice and cooperation. And we want to see others doing the same thing.
But when a member of our community ceases to be about the “we” and becomes completely about the “me,” say, by threatening to sue people who use THAT WORD in tiny, little blogs meant for tiny, little audiences in tiny, little towns, that person ceases to be a TRUE frugalista. Instead, that person becomes a façade – a designer imposter, if you will, the very thing frugalistas avoid like the plague.
Well, enough of my philosophical ranting. Your letter got its desired result, I’m changing the name of my blog. There’s a limit to how tacky I am willing to be in this, I’m not one of THOSE women (rhymes-with-witch).
But I hear karma is.
Love and kisses,
P.S. – In case you are curious, I am keeping the complete text of the pretty-groovy letter I composed when I planned my appeals to the Trademark Office on my soon-to-be-renamed blog (look for it on 10/1/09). Some pretty good arguments in there, if I say so myself. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, one day, someone who has $600 to spare doesn’t end up checking it out and using it as the basis of an actual filing. Which would be just awesome!
P.P.S – Forgot to mention. You know all those other blog authors and online users of the-word-that-shall-not-be-named? I blind copied them on this email, as well as some other potentially-interested parties. Isn’t technology grand?