roberta-keiko-kitahara-santana-RfL3l-I1zhc-unsplashIt's become commonplace for big companies to target smaller businesses with trademark or copyright complaints over what could be termed marginal cases, if we're being generous. It's easy enough for the big companies to do — most have the budget for considerable in-house or outside counsel to pursue such cases, and there's no penalty for their aggressiveness; the worst that can happen is that they lose the case, at which point things return to the status quo ante.

It's a different state of affairs entirely for the small businesses on the other side of the suit. Most can't afford any sort of lawsuit, least of all a protracted one, and so they more often than not settle, regardless of the relative merits of the case at hand. It's a sad state of affairs, but one against which there is little reprise; money talks in the courts, and the more money you have, the better your chance at an outcome in your favor.

One person is at least making an attempt to bring light to the problem, and one case in particular. In response to fashion brand Hugo Boss' aggressive approach to its trademark, particularly in regards to a Welsh brewery, British comedian Joe Lycett legally changed his name to Hugo Boss, paperwork and all. The move comes as part of Lycett's efforts to promote the second season of his consumer rights shoe "Joe Lycett's Got Your Back" (though it remains to be seen if the show needs to be rebranded, I suppose.)

The highlighted case in question involves Boss Brewing out of Swansea, which was hit with a £10,00 legal fight over their Boss Black and Boss Boss beers, which Hugo Boss felt hewed too close to their own brand. The fashion label and the brewery eventually settled on Boss Brewing changing the names of the beers to Boss Brewing Black and Boss Bossy, and the brewery no longer selling articles of clothing.

While Lycett's tact will hopefully shine a light upon the problem, it's not one that seems likely to stop even in the face of some short-lived negative press. Whether these companies believe in earnest that there could be confusion between a fashion label and a brewery in Wales, or are simply adopting a litigious position to exploit what is a broken system, there's no reason for any of them to stop pressing cases. So until protest results in actual change, we can all adopt new names, for all the good it will do.

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