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Magazine opposes Reno nonprofit’s use of “entrepreneur”

By John Seelmeyer
Published: Last Updated on

Entrepreneur, the magazine, doesn’t think that Entrepreneurs Assembly, the Reno-based mentoring group for start-up companies, has the right to use “entrepreneur” in its name.

The two sides apparently are working toward an amicable settlement of a case filed by the magazine before the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

But that’s not exactly the end of the story.

A Sacramento PR guy who’s been battling with Entrepreneur Media Inc. for more than two decades has interjected himself, uninvited, into the fight between the magazine publisher and the non-profit Entrepreneurs Assembly.

Here’s how it rolled:

Entrepreneur Media, which has a history of consistently defending its right to use the trademarked “Entrepreneur” designation, last August filed its opposition to the use of “entrepreneur” in the name of Entrepreneurs Assembly.  The magazine publisher noted the company has been using the name since 1978 and registered the trademark in 1987.

The opposition came as a surprise to the board of Entrepreneurs Assembly, which was created about a decade ago to work with fledgling business in the region.

“You don’t expect that a common word like that would be trademarked,” says Rusty Shaffer, a member of the nonprofit’s board.

But a fight over the use of the word in a trademark would probably be lengthy and time-consuming.  In a recent filing with the trademark board, lawyers for Entrepreneur Media said the two sides are in talks.

“We hope and anticipate that the parties will be able to reach an amicable resolution in the very near future,” a spokesman for Entrepreneur Media said this week.

Shaffer doesn’t rule out the possibility that the nonprofit might change its name enough to respect the publisher’s trademark.

By whatever name, the nonprofit and its 60 mentors provide support to well over 100 entrepreneurs in Nevada and the Lake Tahoe area.

But an amicable settlement to the trademark case doesn’t agree — not at all — with Scott Smith, the president of BizStarz, a PR agency in Sacramento.

In a press release that he distributed on his own a few days ago, Smith complains that Entrepreneur Media bullies small organizations such as Entrepreneurs Assembly that don’t have the resources to undertake legal battles to protect trademarks that use the word “entrepreneur.”

The release details use of the word since its use by a French author in 1730 and takes a couple of shots at the personal history of the magazine’s founder.

The headline on Smith’s press release sums up his argument: “Trademark Bullying: Entrepreneurs Assembly, Inc. Caught in Crosshairs of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Trademark War.”

(Entrepreneurs Assembly didn’t have anything to do with press release.)

Why would Smith inject himself into a case that doesn’t involve him?

It turns out that his firm once was known as “EntrepreneurPR.”  In 1998, the magazine took action to protect its trademark, and the agency was forced to stop using the name. Ever since then, Smith says he’s been involved in often acrimonious disputes with the publishing company and its supporters. He characterizes himself as the only entrepreneur who has been willing to fight back.

Now he says he wants to warn others before they get entangled with what he calls “trademark bullies.”