An Asheville, NC tiny company, GalloLea Pizza Kits, was just forced to change its name to BelloLea Artisan Kitchen because of legal action brought against it by the giant E. & J. Gallo Winery in California. GalloLea was named after two people, one of whom has the last name "Gallo." Even though the Asheville company trademarked its name in a line of business that was totally different from Gallo, the fact that the name was the same as Gallo's caused the winery, which is one of the largest in the world, to take legal action. Apparently, Gallo is very aggressive about protecting its trademarked name and has brought suit against other companies with similar names.
Rather than attempt to fight Gallo's lawyers, the owners of GalloLea, Tom Gallo and Susan Devitt, had to concede. "You get to the point where you realize that this is just going to go on and on," said Devitt. "That's just part of business in the huge corporate world." Tom and Susan estimate their legal fees, new packaging, and marketing costs to change the company name will amount to $140,000 which, they say, is "devastating."
The moral of the story: Make a concerted effort to choose a brand name that cannot possibly be disputed by a much larger company. As this case proves, even if you trademark your name, you are not entirely protected, because it is the legal obligation of the owner to protect the trademark. Sad but true -- as you might expect, trademark law favors the companies with the most money available for legal fees.
The new Second Edition of the eGuide, Branding 123, includes a section about naming a brand and trademarks, in addition to updated and expanded information about tactics small businesses can use to differentiate their brands. Branding 123 is available at the Amazon Kindle Store or in any e-book format (including PDF) at Smashwords.