.Last week while Beth and I were at Made in Monmouth, I received a media email alert based on “Strap Saver”. My first thought was “Wow, who’s writing about us now?”. After a glance, my mind quickly changed to “oh no… what’s THIS?” The link led me to a twitter account @strapsaver_ with a logo that included a bra and a tweet saying “Fix your life, one strap at a time.” The product was for retrieving rogue bra straps.
I spent the next 15 minutes chewing my bottom lip and wondering what to do about it. Was someone using our product name? Didn’t they look these things up? Would I need a cease and desist? If so, how was I going to manage THAT?
To say I’m protective of this company is an understatement. I’ve worked hard to build what we have. I know I’ve taken the right measures to keep it safe, but not everything is within my control. Earlier this year, I was concerned about competition from a 3M product called the “Hold Tight Strap Clip.” Despite our trademark and provisional patent, I worried about the same potential problem – would I have to protect against someone undermining our brand? (in this case, it was more trademark than patent)
I decided to read the tweet again for insights – the hashtag was #echsinnovationexpo and the other Twitter account mentioned was for a Mrs. Something-or-Other. Slowly, the gears in my brain started turning again. It’s a high school. The Mrs. is their teacher. This product is not being produced. I think. Ok. Phew. Back to Made in Monmouth. Let’s sell some Strap Savers!
I went home that night and talked about it with Marc. We had a quick laugh over my tendency to jump to conclusions and tried to figure out what to do next. One part of owning a trademark is using it in business and another is defending it. If there was evidence that I knew about this and let it go, it wouldn’t look good for me if there was a future problem – even if this was just a high school project.
I decided to follow them on Twitter and headed to their website to contact them. I wrote to them (what I hoped was) a very nice note saying that I thought their product idea was cute but explained about ownership of the trademark to The Strap Saver. It was not a problem if this was for a class project, but if they were going to sell it, they would need to change the name. I even tossed in about needing to defend the trademark so that hopefully I didn’t sound like a crazy adult going after a school project. (file this under “things I’d never thought I’d have to do as a business owner”)
I heard back from them right away – explaining that yes, this is just a project and no, they didn’t have plans to produce it. My favorite was the closing line: “We’re all just a bunch of 14 year olds just trying to get by.” All I could think was “I hear you!”
The interaction did lead to something helpful for them. They needed an expert in the field to answer some questions. So far, no one had gotten back to them! I gave them some answers about their project and my thoughts on existing solutions to slipping straps.
While my reaction to the situation still makes me smile, I’m very impressed with these young women. They put together a great website and a very funny video. The branding is clear and the logo is cute – which I think was their goal. I think it’s important that teachers are having students do this type of work while they are still in high school. (also – maybe include a section on researching intellectual property?) Young adults will start to understand the process of developing their own ideas into viable products. This could have been Beth or I a *cough* few *cough* years ago, if we had all of the opportunities of the internet at that age.
Their project is due today. I hope they get an A.