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Everyone Makes Mistakes

By Dana Blankenhorn
Feb 22, 1999 12:00 AM PT

Whenever I spell someone's name wrong, or misinterpret a comment in a story, I take comfort from the fact that everyone makes mistakes.

I made such a mistake last week when I mentioned that Salon Magazine was making money. Well, I was wrong. A Salon executive in a position to know called me on it. I was mistaken. I apologize, and we continue.

The Walt Disney Co. didn't do what I did, when GoTo.Com notified them their Go.Com trademark looked an awful lot like the symbol of GoTo's year-old search engine. The difference between "oops" and "Houston, we have a problem" can lie in what is done after the mistake is found.

In this case, GoTo.Com's CEO said he notified Disney of the similarity during Go's beta test, and told a reporter the response was he'd have to sue to get redress. So he sued. GoTo.Com is backed by Bill Gross' Idealab. I'm certain Disney has fine lawyers. My guess is Gross does, too.

Regardless of the suit's merits, the fact that we're discussing it is bad publicity for Disney. Once a big company gets into a fight like this, the only question becomes how much they'll lose, in money, goodwill and criticism (even satire).

When you're a company like Disney, the satire can even come from inside. Some 20 years ago NBC changed its logo to a block "N" and drew a suit from the University of Nebraska. The network's "Saturday Night Live" show made light of it with a "dancing N" that brought stories into their "Weekend Update" spot. The peacock returned.

So, remember... before you decide to put most of your goodwill into a trademark, click here and search to see if someone else has it. The search is free. The trouble you save will be your own.

What do you think? Let's talk about it.

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