Vice media filed a lawsuit earlier this week, claiming copyright infringements on its in-house marketing agency called “Virtue Worldwide.” The lawsuit was filed against Christian marketing company Virtue Marketing LLC, claiming the small business is trying to leech off the success of its brand.
We thought this sounded a little far-fetched, and because we happen to have connections to the owner of Virtue Marketing LLC, we decided to do our own investigation.
Vice Media does NOT in fact own the rights to the virtue mark as it claims, the trademark application is pending and, in order to protect the Virtue Marketing brand, the Christian firm filed an opposition to the application, a practice that is standard protocol for the USPTO. That opposition preceded the lawsuit, and from the outside perspective, it looks as though Vice filed the lawsuit simply because the faith-based business owner didn’t just roll over and drool.
According to the owner of Virtue Marketing, she didn’t even know Vice existed, let alone their in-house marketing department, when she founded her company. She’s been operating at full tilt for the last three years and only learned of Vice when they sent her a letter claiming they owned the rights to the virtue mark. After contacting the United States Patent and Trademark Office, she learned they were only in the application process and didn’t actually own the trademark as they claimed. After spending several years trying to build her brand, she had no plans to just step aside simply because a larger company thought she should.
“I certainly didn’t ask for any of this. All I want to do is grow my company and serve people. Vice sought me out. But, now that they have, I can’t just let all our hard work, my team’s hard work, be put back to square one. I don’t understand why Vice claims they ‘own’ the virtue mark, when one look at the USPTO website proves otherwise. I think they expected me to just go away; change my name; whatever. We used the word Virtue for a reason, and we want to keep it. I can’t just lay down and let it go. If I do, I’ll be sending the message that Christian companies just back down when confronted, and I don’t think that’s the right message to send. I can’t pretend to know what to expect. All I know is I haven’t done anything wrong. In fact, my very first question was, ‘Am I in the wrong, because if I am, I’ll make it right.’ But, according to everyone I’ve spoken to, legal counsel and otherwise, I’m not in the wrong. Instead I’m being bullied.”
It took about five minutes on LinkedIn to find 121 other companies in the marketing and advertising space using a virtue mark. Is Vice planning to systematically take control of the word “virtue?” If so, Vice’s legal team will have earned enough in legal fees to retire early.
According to some reports from Host Gator, after sending several threatening letters to Virtue Marketing and not getting the results they wanted, Vice Media filed an illegal DMCA takedown of the Christian company’s website. Host Gator sided with the company after learning that Vice didn’t actually own the trademark they claimed to own.
Legal representation for Virtue Marketing was not available for comment.
After looking at both sides of this story, it’s clear that Vice Media’s size is its only strength in this battle. Well, Virtue Marketing, you know what they say – the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Here’s hoping David wins the day… again.