Online Marketing firm Doz‘s CEO Anji ISMAIL posted a guest post at the French startup blog Rude Baguette titled “Why trademarks are important for startups” OR “How SEOMoz sent us a takedown notice.” The ensuing discussion on Hacker News about the post has been quite a bit back and forth. Many argue that Moz is in the fault here, by abusing their trademark lawyer and taking advantage of a poor startup while others argue that Doz is too close to Moz’s business.
Both sides have merit in my opinion. Spontaneously I did side with Doz, but thinking about it, reading the comments and writing this post I am actually more inclined to believe that SEOMoz/Moz have a case. I don’t know if it will hold up in court, I am no lawyer after all.
When first writing this post I typed Moz instead of Doz several times, so there are clear similarities – if just superficial. More importantly, Moz and Doz are in pretty much the same niche, SEO/Online Marketing. Moz feel that they have an obligation to protect their trademark and that Doz is uncomfortably close to it. This will generate them no good will, and they probably know it but they feel they have to take legal action.
Looking at Anji, Doz CEO,’s Twitter, he has not changed his website to Doz (from CapSEO.com), nor has CapSEO been migrated and Doz.com’s SSL certificate belongs to CapSEO. The rebranding process seems rather painless to me at this point. It sucks that they spent a fair chunk of money on a domain, As far as I can tell Doz filed a trademark in ’12, SEOMoz filed one in ’11. Everyone would probably be better of if this got cleared up before Doz decided to rebrand. In their defence, SEOMoz -> Moz.com rebranding happened only a few days ago.
The HN discussion also contains comments from Moz employees (directly and indirectly), and they put Moz in a better light in my opinion.
So, I did what I would want someone to do for me. In January, I called him to give him a personal heads up that we had a problem, that the brand felt too close for us. I told him we had a registered intent-to-use, and that we were planning on launching soon, just like him. I asked him to use a different brand for his future product or that we would have to cancel his mark. He explained to me that his product is different enough from ours that there wouldn’t be confusion. I urged him to talk to his lawyer and get independent advice before he launched his product.
– Sarah Bird, COO of Moz
When Anji reached out to us initially, they were CapSEO. At the time, I had no idea Doz existed, or that CapSEO was rebranding. As Anji and I talked, the discussion was around the functionality of CapSEO, which I saw as complementary. Later the discussion moved to their plans to rebrand to Doz, with a fuller focus on inbound marketing services (and software). This too is complementary, but not with the brand of Doz, as Sarah alluded to. There’s obvious confusion and brand dilution of Moz that can come as a result, and it’s our duty to protect our trademark.
I think it’s important to have this context. It feel into our lap with no other option than the action we took, we didn’t seek this out. We’ve taken every step to be transparent into why, and hope, still, that we can resolve this in a civilized manner. I’ve spent the past 8 years of my life doing startups, the last thing we want to do is derail a startup from their mission.
– Andrew Dumont, Biz Dev at Moz
Moz did give Doz a heads up and while it is unfortunate, I do believe that Doz’s business is way to close to Moz’s and the names are rather similar. They are not the most similar names ever but they are close enough for the average user to mix them up. I have mixed them up several times already when writing this post, and that is when focusing on the topic.
Time will tell if Doz gets to keep their name or not, I am not a trademark lawyer so who am I to judge if the complaint is valid or not.
Edit: Fixed some of the things mentioned above about filing the trademark. See Sarah Bird’s comment in the original blog post for further information. The comments on Hacker News are getting progressively worse, trademarks are no longer to be protected according to most it seems. Except when it would cause issues for oneself of course.
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