HEADLINE: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL THREATENING TO SUE SMALL CHILDREN'S NEWSPAPER IN MAINE FOR TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT
ANCHORS: BOB EDWARDS
REPORTERS: CHARLOTTE RENNER
BOB EDWARDS, host:
First, it was Microsoft vs. the Justice Department. Now it's The Wall Street Journal vs. the Small Street Journal. For about five months children in Maine have been sending stories and poems to a newspaper for young readers, but the Small Street Journal represents a big problem for lawyers representing the Dow Jones publication. So they're threatening to sue the junior paper for trademark infringement. Charlotte Renner reports from Maine Public Radio.
CHARLOTTE RENNER reporting:
Publishers Chris Yountz and Noreen Reed create the Small Street Journal in the log cabin they share in the little town of Newburgh, Maine. Festooned with computer-generated turkeys, the Thanksgiving issue features puzzles, book reviews by children and about a dozen advertisements by local merchants. Reed was working in her garden on a late summer day when a registered letter arrived from The Wall Street Journal.
Ms. NOREEN REED (Publisher, Small Street Journal) : And so when I saw that letter, I thought, 'Gee, you know, they've heard about us,' you know? I looked at Chris and kind of smiled, and even the mail lady laughed. I said, 'Maybe they're going to advertise with us.'
RENNER: The letter was anything but friendly. Instead, it ordered Yountz and Reed to 'cease and desist' publication. They hired a lawyer to write back to The Wall Street Journal saying they're doing nothing wrong. They have no intention of taking readers away from the publishing titan. They just want to sell enough ads in the Small Street Journal so they can give up their papart-time jobs pruning Christmas trees.
As legal correspondence flies between Maine and New York, the couple continues to deliver car trunk loads of free copies to restaurants, schools and convenience stores in towns along Interstate 95 near Bangor. They begin bundling the papers in a McDonald's parking lot.
Mr. CHRIS YOUNTZ (Publisher, Small Street Journal) : How many you got there on the top?
Ms. REED: About 25.
Mr. YOUNTZ: Well, I want to put more in here than 25.
RENNER: Yountz says he's been getting more requests for copies since reports of his troubles have appeared in newspapers.
Unidentified Woman: I saw you on the news, Joe. How's that going?
Mr. YOUNTZ: It's...
Unidentified Woman: You're still here.
Mr. YOUNTZ: It's going.
RENNER: And he's happy to have the free publicity.
Mr. YOUNTZ: If we get to keep our name, then, you know, we look like the little guy that beat the big guy. If we have to give up the name, then we catch the sympathetic vote.
RENNER: While sympathy is apparently not a valuable asset to The Wall Street Journal, the lawyer for the newspaper's owner, Dow Jones Incorporated, says the fight over its trademark is being unfairly seen as a David and Goliath battle.
Mr. RICHARD TOFULL (Attorney): This is David's lawyers against Goliath's lawyers.
RENNER: Richard Tofull(ph) concedes that subscribers are not likely to confuse The Wall Street Journal with a 12-page children's newspaper circulating only in northern Maine. Still, he says, trademarks must be vigilantly protected against all assaults, no matter how harmless they may seem.
Mr. TOFULL: We're a public company. We're owned by our shareholders. If we don't defend The Wall Street Journal trademark and anybody can eventually come to use it, then we've lost our company's most valuable asset.
RENNER: Wall Street Journal lawyers say they hope a settlement can be reached whereby the Small Street Journal can continue publishing without registering its own trademark, but that would make it more difficult for the Small Street Journal to prevent competitors from stealing its name. And while the Small Street Journal doesn't yet have any imitators, Yountz and Reed look forward to the day when it might. So they intend to go right on publishing the Small Street Journal, as they seek to register its name with the federal government.
The only question, says Yountz, is whether they'll spend so much working capital on attorneys' fees that they won't have enough left to pay the printer next month. For NPR News, I'm Charlotte Renner in Bangor, Maine.
EDWARDS: This is NPR's MORNING EDITION. I'm Bob Edwards.
LOAD-DATE: November 25, 1999