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Business confrontation over my pottery style, use of terms- need advice

I haven't thought this out- just quickly posting-

I'm going to be vague here because I don't know if this will turn into a legal problem.

I was just notified by email by a third party, for a company representative who found a piece of my pottery online.

The third party removed it from their online site where it could be seen because they were told that it violated a trademark infringement.

I did a little research- the company uses certain terms in their business name and in all of their descriptions that I also use for some of my items.  The terms are descriptive to a STYLE of decor- think shabby chic, beach decor, country, classy, -you get the idea.

They sent me the trademark proof that their business name is trademarked. Their business name has the decor style in their name.

The email said that my pottery piece was in violation of their trademark, all that I can see is that I also use this descriptive term- to describe my piece of pottery. Please note-- it is a very common and widely used word!!!

So- what would you do if this happened? This company is larger than me, and surely has deeper pockets- BUT- I have been producing pottery much much longer than them. 

I don't feel that they can OWN a word to describe a style.

This is a case of the big guy going after the little guy, but the little guy was here first.

Any thoughts?

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I have heard of the Shabby Chic problem - apparently one woman in the UK appropriated the name specifically to her range back in the 80s.   She moved to the US, expanded, overextended, went bankrupt and then went into partnership with a company to re-start her business.  That company specifically protects her brand name and literally does go after ANYONE (even single artists/artisans/craftspeople) from using those terms.  So it is completely possible.   I think its completely bizarre that someone could own what so many deem to be a 'style' rather than a brand, but there you go.

Just because they are using tactics to achieve top listings in Google Searches (SEO) Search Engine Optimization, there is nothing illegal about that. A lot of companies do it.

As to your naming system. You may have been there first, however 2 things are important.

A) Did you document it?

B) Can you prove it.

Spend some time in the Etsy discussion areas. You will find this is a very real problem for online sales. You will also find some ways to describe your work without using the trademarked phrases.

Annette, Yes, I remember the shabby chic, although I didn't follow it. Thanks.

Larry,
I am not using their company name. I am only using a word that is in their name, as it is a common word, when I describe a few of my pottery items on the internet. The word is common, and is also used to describe a decorating style. Other companies such as Crate and Barrel freely use it in their catalogs.
The word is as common as using "country" to describe furniture. It is similar to being told that you cannot use that word, EVEN THOUGH you may actually work in the country and produce country style furniture, and the other company does NOT work or produce from the country. I have been making pots since the 70's so yes, I was first, but no, never documented a word as common as this, never used it until online came to be, and I needed search terms to describe my work.
I'm being vague because I want to be polite and not name the business. Thank you for commenting.
Alison, yes, familiar with the forums, normally when I have looked, the person receiving the notice seemed to deserve it, their work looked very copyrighted.
I didn't post there about this. Thank you.

Yesterday I responded to the company telling them that I felt that they could not legally request anything of me. The problem, though, is that the website where I sell my work is not my own website (etsy), and that is who the company contacted, and that is who removed my work. Etsy will not allow work that has been challenged, and of course I understand that.

My situation is similar to this: An artist who works in the country on country style furniture and calls their furniture -NOT their business- country furniture. Then a larger company who does NOT produce furniture in the country comes along and makes their business name "Country Furniture," then prevents the first artist from using the word "country" to describe their furniture-even though they have been in business 40 years and are the more authentic one.
Please, everyone, I'm bugged but not upset, but when I have more time, I'm not done with this. (smiling)
Judy

Update-

Since I have their trademark #, I looked it up, and their app date is in 2014, and I have proof-online, that I used the term 3 months earlier, than their app date. My proof is a sale made and recorded, online.

So? What next do you think? 

Thanks again everyone!

You have already posted a partial solution to your own problem.

"...Etsy will not allow work that has been challenged..." So you can contact Etsy, and challenge the other company's product. Thereby getting Etsy to remove their product.

It may not matter to a court or Copyright law whether or not the other company or the product is owned or made in this company. You are dealing with a terminology and the registration  jurisdiction.

Don't let yourself get confused with Ethics, Morals and values... this is legalities. Written law, accepted practice, proof, filing proper paperwork ON TIME is the direction toward a goal.

Right and wrong, rarely have a bearing. 

Their work is not on etsy. They have a huge website. 

I have to deal directly with this company, yes, much larger than me.

Their trademarked name was registered in 2016, two years after I have been using the term as a description.

I suggested checking out the Etsy forums because a lot of people on there have had the same issue with shabby chic and other terms.  There are workarounds but I'm afraid even if you used it before if you didn't trademark it, you are out of luck.  There is also this facebook group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/indielaw/ which breaks it all down.  Trademarking has gotten out of hand.

Alison I will go look on the forums for posts with shabby chic. I notice cottage chic now, wonder if that is why?

I'll look at the facebook group, too, thanks.

I agree it sounds silly. The term onesie is trademarked, I believe.

This has nothing at all to do with my work, no questions there, it's about using a word among many words, to describe it.

I believe it is due to SEO and the competition to be found. If a company can get its competitors excluded from search- 

I plan to get the final answer from a lawyer eventually. I need to contact the company and get their ok to relist on etsy. I don't want to "ask" them, I want to "tell" them. Well, in a perfect world, anyway.

You can trademark almost anything. Defending it is a whole nother story. Talk to a lawyer. If it is too descriptive/generic, a lawyer would have to try to get the trademark voided. Someone needs to play the lawyer though...

Yes-you can trademark anything, it seems.
I just found out that that phrase "Life is Good" is now trademarked!
When I get some time, I plan to look into and understand all of this about trademarking-I'm sure it has been changing out there...

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