Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 2, 1999

Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / November 2, 1999

So. Everyone likes a David-and-Goliath story. You know, where the littleguy bravely faces off with an opponent many times his size and against all odds, gets lucky and defeats him. Oh, happy day! There is much rejoicing,and the little guy goes on to be the king or a movie star or something, like Audie Murphy.

Well, here’s a David-and-Goliath story for you that probably won’t have such a happy ending, unless of course Goliath decides to give David a break and not pound him into gravy drippings.

A reader from Alabama sent me an article that was sent to him by a friend in Maine. The Bangor Daily News is reporting that a small children’s paper,the Small Street Journal (henceforth known as David) that is distributed free from libraries, schools, businesses, and homes has been notified by a large financial publication, the Wall Street Journal (owned by Dow Jones and henceforth known as the unbathed Goliath) to stop using the name “Small Street Journal.” Goliath reckons that David is using his name andhas issued a “cease and desist” letter. They state that the name is”confusingly similar to our famous trademark” and accuse David of “unfair competition” in violation of state and federal laws. Richard Tofel,vice president of corporate connections at the Wall Street Journal, ( now theres a job title for you) says, “..we are concerned when someoneregisters a trademark that plays off our registered mark.” Well, slap my face and call me Sally.

That’s a little like saying that the kids at a summer lemonade stand are unfair competition to the giant Burger King corporation because they call their little stand Have It Your Way Lemonade. Those kids have about asmuch in common with that corporate monster as The Small Street Journal has with the Wall Street Journal, and are just about as much of a threat.

The Small Street Journal has been in existence for all of six months. Ittargets children from the ages of 5 to 14, contains coloring pages, puzzles, and educational activities. It has a massive circulation of 4,000to 8,000 customers and all of 19 local advertisers.

The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, has not a single coloring page and the most puzzling thing about it is how to read the stock quotes, which I still haven’t figured out. And I’m assuming that most of itsreaders are already past the grade school stage and are pretty darn educated already, so I would think that “educational activities” are a bit limited in that publication, or at least are on a way different level. I can’teven begin to guess what the circulation of that paper is, but I’d bet the farm if I had one that it’s more than 8,000. And there are probably 19 highdollar advertisers on a single page of that paper.

I can see how they’d be threatened by the Small Street Journal, can’t you? Apparently they and their lawyers do.

Speaking of lawyers, where do they get those guys anyway? Is there a Rabid Lawyer Farm out there somewhere we don’t know about where corporate types can go get guys who will do something like this in clear conscience? I’m trying to find the logic in a Goliath like the Wall Street Journal even thinking that a puny little David like the Small Street Journal is any kind of a threat at all. Unfortunately, every time I look for the logichere I get a mental image of a Brooks Brothers suited lawyer saying, “Logic? We dont need no steenking logic!” And speaking of suits, somebody had to be the one to give the Wall Street Journals lawyers the nod to go after David. I”m forced to wonder whatcorporate suit sitting in a mega-dollar office decided to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. I’m really not a gambler but once again I’ll bet thatwhoever the suit was who made that decision, his desk cost more than that little paper has made so far.

So, how can David fight Goliath in this case? The fact is, he can’t. Thebest he can do is make some protesting noises and try to appeal to Goliaths more altruistic instincts if he has any, because if David fights, he cannot possibly win. Goliath has the money, the lawyers, and the timeto bury him in litigation. Even if he were to win a TV drama style courtbattle he would be left with a legal bill the size of the gross national product of Guatemala. It would sink him anyway.Well, I wish the best for that little paper and its founder Chris Yountz. Iwould like to think that Goliath will take a look at David and realize just how foolish he seems in making an issue of this. Ease up, Goliath. Nobodyout here thinks that little paper can possibly do you any harm and I can assure you that nobody will get the two of you confused. Ever.Relax.

Lee Dresselhaus is a regular columnist for L’Observateur

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