There are many ways to respond to a cease and desist notice over trademark rights. The most common response is probably fear-based capitulation. After all, trademark bullying works for a reason, and that reason is that large companies have access to large legal war chests while smaller companies usually just run away from their own rights. Another response is the aggressive defenses against the bullying. And, finally, every once in a while you get a response so snarky in tone that it probably registers on the richter scale, somehow.
The story of how a law firm called Southtown Moxie responded to a C&D from a (maybe?) financial services firm called Financial Moxie is of the snark variety. But first, some background.
Financial Moxie is a financial advisory catering to working moms. Or at least I think it is… the website also lists multiple fitness instructors on staff so I don’t know what that’s all about. The “moxie” term aligns with the phenomenon of “Moxie Tribes” which seem to be groups for working moms to talk about how awesome they are. It’s basically Goop with fewer vagina candles. Meanwhile “Southtown Moxie” is a law firm in Tennessee and North Carolina.
After receiving a cease and desist letter demanding that Southtown Moxie withdraw its trademark application, Kevin Christoper of Rockridge Venture Law (Southtown Moxie’s sibling firm) sat down with a beer to pen a response.
Which is how we get to the response. The full letter is embedded below, but you damn well know you're in for a treat when the response to a C&D notice begins with:
Dear Ms. Harper,
THANK YOU SO MUCH for your C&D letter and notice of opposition to our trademark application! This case presents a wonderful training opportunity for our noob associates. (And, lawyer-to-lawyer I must add it’s an honor to correspond with you. You are obviously a sensational salesperson-attorney to convince your client to pay you for challenging another law firm’s trademark application—I’m truly in awe and look forward to learning a thing or two from you. When I think of it, your client is paying you, and also giving us good trademark cannon fodder for our noobs, so it’s a win-win all around.)
And we're off! The letter then goes into noting all of the things Ms. Harper's client could buy instead of wasting everyone's time on a losing potential lawsuit. Examples include: a speedboat, glamorous clothing and jewelry, or hiring a social media influencer. The most important part of all of this, I have to stress, is that each example comes with an embedded photo of a barbie doll pantomiming these suggestions.
With that throat-clearing complete, the response goes on to note in creative terms that financial and legal services are not the same thing, nor in the same markets, and therefore any trademark concern evaporates.
But I wouldn’t be drinking a Purple Haze in my skivvies if I didn’t point out the irony that your client has hired you to represent her BECAUSE SHE IS NOT LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW. Based on your letter, she claims that our mark, limited to the provision of legal services, infringes upon her financial advisory, personal coaching, and tribal businesses and causes her great harm. Basically she thinks someone looking for “Moxie Tribe” fellowship is going to get sucked up into our vortex of intellectual property services.
The notice then goes on to note that Financial Moxie has a disclaimer listed on its site that all communication is intended for select states in America, none of which include North Carolina or Tennessee, where Southtown Moxie is located. So, different industries and different geographic locations. None of this adds up to a valid trademark dispute and it seems likely that Southtown Moxie is going to win in front of the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.
But, hey, we should at least thank Financial Moxie and its legal team for setting things up for this gem of a C&D response.