Corporate Bully Nordstrom Speaks With Forked Tongue


Well, Blake Nordstrom hasn’t yet responded to my letter of the 11th, but, as Marc Randazza notes, his company’s VP of Corporate Communications, Brooke White,  sent an email to InformationWeek’s Global CIO Weblog, which broke the story of Nordstrom bullying a small company over a trademark, “Beckons,” that the small company clearly had a right to use:

A customer of ours e-mailed us a copy of your story from yesterday expressing their unhappiness with how they feel Nordstrom has handled this issue. I’d like you to know our thoughts. Our intention from the beginning was to co-exist with Beckons in a manner that would enable Beckons to use their trademark on yoga merchandise, while we used the Beckon name for fashion apparel and accessories. We never intended to adversely affect Ms. Prater’s business and we are sorry if this has happened. We are reaching out again to Ms. Prater’s attorneys to reach a settlement that we are hoping she will find acceptable. When we have resolved this issue, which we are hopeful will be soon, we’ll get back to you to share the outcome.

Bob Evans at Global CIO wrote about the Nordstrom response uncritically, even optimistically:

Retail giant Nordstrom’s blunt-force attempt to seize a trademark from a small online retailer, made possible by an error within the Patent & Trademark Office, might produce a happy ending instead of wiping out the small firm that’s had to spend more than $70,000 on legal fees. Nordstrom says it’s “sorry” if it hurt the small business and is seeking an acceptable solution.
. . . .
[I]t is heartening to see that Nordstrom at least appears to be willing to try to rectify this situation fairly.

IANAIPL, but “fairly”? Since Beckons has the right to use that mark on “CLOTHING, NAMELY PANTS, SHIRTS, T-SHIRTS, SHORTS, DRESSES, SWEATPANTS, AND JACKETS“, rather than just “yoga merchandise”, wouldn’t rectifying the situation fairly involve a public apology (and not a Clintonesque apology of the “I am sorry if . . .” type) and full compensation to Ms. Sather and Ms. Prater for their costs?

Beckons will settle this matter, I hope, in a way that keeps them in business and recoups some of their lost expenses. That won’t make things right Nordstrom.
Greenfield has a five-point plan for Nordstrom to redeem itself; anything less than returning Beckons to its position before litigation began with a real public apology (here’s what I did wrong, I’m sorry, and I won’t do it again) should rightly be a public relations nightmare for corporate bully Nordstrom.

If Nordstrom had wanted from the beginning to co-exist with Beckons, Nordstrom could have contacted Beckons and politely ask for permission to use their mark on non-competing (that is, non-clothing). Why would Beckons have tolerated Nordstrom’s trademark infringement? Nordstrom could have offered to pay for the right. Instead Nordstrom sicced its lawyers on them, knowing full well that Beckons would be harmed by the cost of defending their mark, whatever the outcome.

Those of us in the criminal justice dodge are familiar with the things that people do to hurt other people, and the rationalizations they give afterwards. In my expert opinion, when Nordstrom says that from the beginning they intended to co-exist and never intended to adversely affect Ms. Prater’s business, it’s what we call “a lie.”

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