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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.

By Jane Easter Bahls • May 5, 2006 Originally published Jan 1, 2005

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

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

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