BikePortland has a post about Sprout Cycles, a small (one-man) Portland-based bike manufacturer that has seen another company, Swobo of Fort Collins, Colorado, file a federal trademark application for the SPROUT trademark. Now Sprout Cycles is worried that it willl lose the mark to the bigger company. Check out the full story at BikePortland.org. There’s an interesting discussion brewing in the comment section.
Edwin’s situation unfortunately isn’t uncommon and should serve as a valuable lesson to small businesses not to overlook protection of their trademarks. Ignoring your trademarks will only make resolving such issues more difficult (and expensive) when they do arise.
Edwin isn’t completely out of luck here. He can file his own use-based federal application with a date of first use that precedes the Colorado company by over half a decade. He can also oppose the current application during its publication phase. While trademark oppositions can be expensive, there’s already one Portland lawyer who’s offered to provide pro bono assistance. Further, even if the Colorado company receives a federal registration for SPROUT, Edwin can continue to use the mark in the geographic area he’s already serving (presumably Oregon or the Pacific Northwest). It would limit Edwin’s expansion dreams but it doesn’t mean he has to drop the mark completely.