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Be careful with your words: Company sues over two little words

Logos, brand names, slogans are easily recognized by many consumers. These types of creative productions are copyrighted by many companies. In addition, companies can patent phrases. The short phrase, "best of," may not appear to be much different from other two word phrases. However, these two little words have been at the center of multiple intellectual property lawsuits.

Village Voice Media, a publisher, recently sued Yelp for its use of the phrase "best of." Village Voice Media uses the phrase in publications including "Best of Phoenix" and "Best of Twin Cities." Previously, Village Voice Media sued Time Out New York for their use of the phrase in "Best of NYC."

Multiple companies using this short phrase may seem like a minor issue for some people. However, for the company who uses a particular phrase as a way for consumers to recognize their products, it is a significant concern. Phrases, logos, and slogans often make up the identity of a company. Target Corp.'s red target logo has a strong association with the company, and if Nike's swoosh logo was put on another product, consumers would likely mistake the product for Nike.

For Village Voice Media the phrase "best of" is an identifying feature of their company. It remains to be seen whether Village Voice Media or Yelp will be favored in this case. However, when a company believes that their corporate identity is being compromised by another company's use of a phrase, pursuing the case is important.

If companies did not pursue intellectual property cases, companies may have less recognizable identities. This would likely change sales and advertising across the country. Defending one's copyrighted or trademark creative material is critical to maintaining a strong brand identity.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Village Voice Media again sues over the phrase, 'best of,'" Venessa Wong, Nov. 1, 2012

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