Forget “Hon” — This Company Is Suing a Md. Woman over the Word “Entrepreneur”

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Janice Mclean Deloatch, right.
Janice Mclean Deloatch, right.

Remember that story (which turned out to be apocryphal — damn you, Snopes!) about former President George W. Bush claiming the French didn’t have a word for “entrepreneur?” Well, if one business magazine has its way, Americans won’t have one either. Or, at least, not one they could name a business with.

Entrepreneur Media, which publishes a magazine about entrepreneurs called Entrepreneur’s StartUps, is suing Marylander Janice McLean Deloatch over the name of her decade-old public access television show which offers advice for entrepreneurs: The Entrepreneur’s Edge.

The craziest thing is that the court sided with Entrepreneur Media.

It’s not crazy because “entrepreneur” is word in common use. As Hank Boyd — who co-chairs the marketing department at University of Maryland, College Park — told the Baltimore Sun: “Think of Time magazine. We all use the word ‘time’ every day in conversation. When you think of the brand of Time, they own it.” Fair.

But Time isn’t a magazine that literally reports on time; and it’s not like they’re sending cease-and-desist orders to the cartoon Adventure Time.

Claiming an exclusive right to the word “entrepreneur” in such a descriptive context is a stretch. Would anyone defend the magazine Cat Fancy attempting to enforce a trademark on “cat?”

But however sound the lawsuit’s legal footing, it certainly is “very unusual that the very people who would have the most interest in [the magazine] are the ones they are going after,” as Johns Hopkins University assistant professor of business law Stacey B. Lee pointed out.



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