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The Name Game

You can shield your trade name from being ripped off by a larger company--if it's distinctive enough.

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This story appears in the January 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Five years ago, a small Georgia toy company called Peaceable Planet began marketing a stuffed camel named "Niles." The next year, Ty Inc., the maker of Beanie Babies, flooded the market with stuffed camels also named "Niles." Peaceable Planet sued to protect its . Last April, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Peaceable Planet and ordered Ty to withdraw its stuffed camel.

Normally, over trademarks involve a big company trying to fend off a copycat. But under a legal doctrine called "reverse confusion," a small company can fight back when a giant threatens to overpower it by adopting a confusingly similar trade name.

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