Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

I Can’t Give this Post an Apt Name

The words BigLaw and SmallLaw have meaning to toiling lawyers who over the years may have worked at 2000-lawyer firms, 200-lawyer firms and 2-lawyer firms. In my case, as a solo practitioner (and somewhat vertically challenged), I am a member of the SmallLaw community.

BigLaw signifies a firm with hundreds or thousands of lawyers, usually spread far and wide geographically and practice area-wise. SmallLaw indicates a small firm lawyers numbering in the single- or double-digits, often with a niche specialty or two.

PeerViews Inc. got itself U.S. trademark registrations for BigLaw and SmallLaw, both covering various email newsletters and blogs relating to legal practice and legal technology.  Then they objected to use of the term “Small Law” in the title of a post on the blog Lawyerist, demanding that Lawyerist take down the offending blog title within 7 days. The post was called “Above the Law Goes Small Law”, and was reporting on the fact that the popular, intelligently written though gossipy law blog was expanding its focus to include frequent posts about small law life as well as BigLaw goings-on.

Bloggers did not react favorably to PeerViews’ proprietary view.   For example, Carolyn Elefant, author of the solo lawyer bible Solo by Choice and the blog, proclaimed in a blog title, “Memo to SmallLaw, You Don’t Own Small Law!”  She expressed concern about the chilling effect this could have on her blog and small law in general.

Not only did Lawyerist not cave in to PeerViews’ takedown demand, they took major steps to make use of BigLaw and SmallLaw safe for all humankind, including most if not all bloggers. Taking the position that “the terms BigLaw and SmallLaw and the phrases big law and small law belong to the public,” Lawyerist Media, LLC has now filed a lawsuit in federal court in Minnesota, seeking the cancellation of the registrations for BigLaw and SmallLaw on the grounds that they are descriptive terms.  Lawyerist also seeks a judgment from the court declaring that its use of “small law” in the blog post does not infringe PeerViews’ trademark. This blog has really put its money where its mouth is.

Bye now. I’m going to add  Lawyerist to my blogroll.

March 23, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

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