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6 David & Goliath Trademark Disputes

Every businessperson would agree that trademark infringement is a serious issue. But when a multi-million dollar corporation goes after a mom-and-pop store, you can't help but root for the underdog. Most of the time, David doesn't stand a chance against a Goliath of the industry, but here are a handful of cases where the little guy fought back and didn't end up empty-handed. And sometimes, against all odds, he even wins.

1. Microsoft v. MikeRoweSoft

At 17 years old, Michael Rowe started his own website design company. Looking for a catchy name for the business, he decided to create a parody of computer software giant Microsoft using a variation of his own name. Rowe purchased the URL mikerowesoft.com.

The Bill Gates empire caught wind of the site and threatened to sue for trademark infringement. To avoid litigation, they graciously offered Rowe $10 to reimburse the expenses incurred in buying the web address. When the story started hitting online news sources, the outcry from average web surfers was intense. A defense fund was set up in Rowe's name and people donated around $6,000 to help him fight the power.

After the online commotion died down, Rowe began to realize just how much was at stake if he saw this case through. His measly $6,000 was nothing compared to the billions Microsoft had at its disposal. And should he lose, Rowe would be responsible for the court costs of a team of Microsoft lawyers, a fee he'd be struggling to pay for the rest of his life. He began to wonder if he should just take his $10 and throw in the towel.

However, the bad press Microsoft received was enough to make them sweeten the deal. In the end, Rowe handed over the website in exchange for Microsoft Certification training, a trip for his family to a tech conference in Redmond, Washington, assistance to set up a new website, and an Xbox videogame system.

2. Burger King v. Burger King

burger-kingBack in the early 1950s, Gene and Betty Hoots bought the Frigid Queen ice cream stand in Mattoon, Illinois. A few years later, they expanded to a new building, where they sold burgers and fries. When looking for a name for this new venture, it was suggested that a queen needs a king, so they called the business "Burger King." They registered the name with the State of Illinois in 1959, giving them exclusive rights to the moniker in the Land of Lincoln.

However, there was another Burger King you might have heard of that was busy building three dozen burger joints all across the South. Thanks to this success, they expanded into the Midwest and, in 1961, opened a restaurant in Skokie, Illinois, followed shortly by another in Champaign, Illinois, just an hour north of Mattoon. By 1967, Burger King Corporation had opened 50 locations across the state.

After years of legal back-and-forth between the companies, Gene and Betty Hoots finally sued the Burger King Corporation in an effort to stop them from using the name Burger King in Illinois. However, because the Home of the Whopper was by then a nationwide chain, the corporate giant was allowed to keep the name.

But that didn't mean the Hootses had to change the signs on their building. The courts ruled that they owned the exclusive rights to the name Burger King within their business region, legally defined as a 20-mile radius around town. To this day, if the other Burger King wants to open a location there, they have to pay the Hootses to use the name.

3. The North Face v. The South Butt

winkelmann_southbuttA few years ago, while walking the halls of his St. Louis-area high school, Jimmy Winkelmann noticed a disturbing trend—every kid in his class was wearing the same fleece jackets from popular clothing company The North Face. Frustrated by their conformity, Jimmy came up with a parody clothing line, The South Butt, and began selling sweatshirts out of a local drugstore. Whereas The North Face's logo is an abstract drawing of Half Dome, the famous granite feature at Yosemite Park, The South Butt's logo is based on the famous feature we all have. And while North Face's ads suggest you "Never Stop Exploring," the South Butt encourages you to instead "Never Stop Relaxing."

While some might think Winkelmann's idea is good for a laugh, not everyone finds it so funny. In August 2009, The North Face sent The South Butt a cease and desist letter in an attempt to stop the parody clothes from being produced. Undeterred, Winkelmann and his lawyer are planning to file for a declaratory judgment, which they hope will give them the right to move forward and get The South Butt products into retail stores in time for Spring.

The actions taken by The North Face have actually drawn more attention to The South Butt and its website, thesouthbutt.com. During the first few years he was in business, Winkelmann sold a total of around two hundred pieces of South Butt merchandise. Thanks to The North Face, though, sales for this November alone have reached over $100,000.

4, 5 & 6. McDonald's v. McEverybody

If you want to use the name Mc-anything for your business, think again. There's a good chance Ronald and his lawyers will be on you like barbecue sauce on a McNugget. Here are just a few of the many trademark infringement cases McDonald's has brought against small businesses that dared use some variation of "Mc" in their name:

"¢ Back in 1996, if you were looking for a quick lunch in Buckinghamshire, England, you might have stopped at Mary Blair's McMunchies, a small corner deli whose name combined slang for snack food and the owner's Scottish heritage. McDonald's threatened to sue her, saying the "Mc" prefix was a registered trademark. To the rescue came Lord Godfrey MacDonald, head of the MacDonald Clan of Scotland, who started a campaign against the corporation's harassment of businesses using the Mc prefix. McDonald's received enough bad press that they eventually dropped the case against McMunchies as well as many other small McBusinesses in the UK.

"¢ Danish business owner Allan Pedersen tried MacAllan whiskey while visiting Scotland. He liked it so much he decided to name his hot dog shop after it and even got permission from the distillery to do so. McDonald's, though, felt the name was a little too similar to their own, so they sued. After repeated trials and appeals, the case wound up in Denmark's Supreme Court, which ruled that Pedersen could keep the name, citing that no one would mistake the one-man hot dog shop with a multi-national hamburger franchise.

mccurry2"¢ In 2001, an Indian restaurant in Malaysia opened, calling itself McCurry. The owners said they chose the name as an acronym of sorts for one of their signature dishes, Malaysian Chicken Curry. Shortly after, McDonald's sued, citing not only the Mc-name, but also that the restaurant's red sign with white block lettering was a little too close for comfort. After eight years in court, in September 2009, the Malaysian Court of Appeal declared that the two businesses were diverse enough that customers would not confuse them, allowing McCurry to keep its name. Now that the owners of McCurry's have won their case, they're thinking about starting up a franchise.

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Live Smarter
The Only Way to Answer ‘What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’ In a Job Interview
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Thanks in part to the influence of Silicon Valley and its focus on the psychological probing of job applicants, interview questions have been steadily getting more and more abstract. As part of the interview process, today's job seekers might be asked to describe a vending machine to someone who’s never seen one before, or plan a fantasy date with a famous historical figure.

Even if the company you’re approaching isn’t fully on board with prodding your brain, at some point you may still come up against one of the most common queries applicants face: "What is your greatest weakness?"

"Some 'experts' will tell you to try and turn a strength into a 'weakness,' to make yourself look good," writes Inc. contributor Justin Bariso. "That advice is garbage."

"Think about it," Bariso continues. "Interviewers are asking the same question to countless candidates. Just try and guess how many times they hear the answers 'being a perfectionist' or 'working too much.' (Hint: way too often.)"

While responding that you work too hard might seem like a reliable method of moving the conversation along, there’s a better way. And it involves being sincere.

"The fact is, it's not easy to identify one's own weaknesses," Bariso writes. "Doing so takes intense self-reflection, critical thinking, and the ability to accept negative feedback—qualities that have gone severely missing in a world that promotes instant gratification and demands quick (often thoughtless) replies to serious issues."

Bariso believes the question is an effective way to reveal an applicant’s self-awareness, which is why companies often use it in their vetting process. By being self-aware, people (and employees) can correct behavior that might be affecting job performance. So the key is to give this question some actual thought before it’s ever posed to you.

What is your actual greatest weakness? It could be that, in a desire to please everyone, you wind up making decisions based on the urge to avoid disappointing others. That’s a weakness that sounds authentic.

Pondering the question also has another benefit: It prompts you to think of areas in your life that could use some course-correcting. Even if you don’t land that job—or even if the question is never posed to you—you’ve still made time for self-reflection. The result could mean a more confident and capable presence for that next interview.

[h/t Inc.]

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Words
This Is the Most Commonly Misspelled Word on Job Resumes
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by Reader's Digest Editors

Your resume is your first chance to make a good impression with hiring managers. One misspelled word might not seem like a huge deal, but it can mean the difference between looking competent and appearing lazy. A 2014 Accountemps survey of 300 senior managers found that 63 percent of employers would reject a job candidate who had just one or two typos on their resume.

Most misspellings on resumes slip through the cracks because spellcheck doesn’t catch them. The most common misspelling on resumes is a shockingly simple word—or so you’d think.

Career coach and resume writer Jared Redick of Resume Studio in San Francisco tells Business Insider that the most common misspelling he sees by far is confusing “lead” with “led.” If you’re talking about how you run meetings at your current job, the correct spelling is “lead,” which is in the present tense. If the bullet point is from a former position, use lead’s past tense: led. Yes, “lead” as in the metal can also be pronounced “led,” but most people have no need to discuss chemical elements on their job resumes.

 
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Other spelling mistakes Redick has seen pop up over and over again on resumes is spelling “definitely” as “definately” (which spellcheck thankfully should catch) and adding an e in “judgment” (“judgement” is the British spelling, but “judgment” is preferred in American English).

To avoid the cringe factor of noticing little typos after sending out your application—especially if your misspelling actually is a real word that spellcheck recognizes—always proofread your resume before submitting. Slowly reading it out loud will take just a few minutes, but it could mean the difference between an interview and a rejection.

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