Right now the folks at fitness wristband manufacturer Energy Armor are likely wishing they had hired a business incorporation service, or at least done a trademark and patent search.
Instead, they began selling and promoting their wristbands with a logo that video game fans will find eerily familiar. It bears a striking similarity to the familiar “EA” logo used by Electronic Arts, makers of a number of high-profile video games, many of which are sports-centric.
Electronic Arts has been in the business of making video games since 1982, and has been using the current logo since the 1990’s. EA Sports, one of the company’s largest and most well-known divisions, makes games that run the gamut from football to basketball to golf. It’s the sports connection that most concerns Electronic Arts.
The connection is far from tenuous. Some sources, including video game industry blog Gamasutra, suspect that Energy Armor’s marketing ploy is very much intentional (http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/37686/EA_Sues_EA.php). Purposeful or not, Energy Armor is suffering the consequences of their choice. After receiving no response to their requests that the acronym-sharing fitness company stop using such a potentially confusing logo, Electronic Arts decided to pursue the matter in court.
Energy Armor has apparently applied for a trademark for their version of the logo, but that application is still pending. This fact didn’t stop the wristband manufacturer from using the logo in advertising and on products.
Did Energy Armor perform a trademark and patent search? If so, did they simply choose to ignore their own logo’s similarity to the existing trademark? Worse still, are the suspicions of those who believe this was intentional trademark infringement correct? These questions may be answered in the upcoming court battle, but there is no question about the fact that Electronic Arts intends to come out swinging.
Among the demands: that Energy Armor destroy all items bearing the current logo and pay Electronic Arts damages for the high cost of correcting misinterpretations made by customers who believed there was some connection between the wristbands and popular Electronic Arts games.
Intentional or not, Energy Armor’s mistake could end up costing them.
While they may be forced to learn their lesson the hard way, new startups can certainly benefit from this example of what not to do. Skipping a trademark and patent search or ignoring the results can only hurt a company’s future success.
Business incorporation services exist to help fledgling businesses avoid this type of catastrophe. The decision to start a business rather than rely on an employer for income already carries its fair share of risk. Compounding that by failing to tend to every legal detail is both dangerous and unnecessary.
The business world will certainly be watching as the case of Electronic Arts versus Energy Armor unfolds. The importance of securing a business incorporation service to avoid going down Energy Armor’s path is likely to be only one of many lessons learned from this debacle.