Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

This expression which is the title of this post is credited to English author Charles Caleb Colton’s writing in 1820. I don’t feel flattered. To explain, Melissa and I formed Magnus Research Consultants, Inc. in 1993. We worked hard to come up with a name that fit many criteria we established for our new, nameless, company. We did not want the name to be tied to Melissa’s name, or any combination of individuals’ names. We did not want it to lock us into only litigation research because we wanted to position ourselves to conduct marketing and organizational research (and we have done so – but I’ll save that for another post). And, there were several other factors that led us to adopting the name, and incorporating as Magnus. Somewhere down the line, we registered the trademark for Magnus to ensure our “ownership” of the name. Several years ago, we became aware that a new company had been formed using a name very similar to ours. We defended our trademark as best we could, but the company lives on today. (Details of the other name and more specifics about the scenario that ensued when we discovered the other company are intentionally omitted due to confidentiality issues.) The co-existence has, thus far, been peaceful. But, the imitation has come with a cost to us in terms of reputational harm. I am reminded of this cost from time to time when I hear from past clients that they know their partners, or other attorney friends, are confused by the 2 similar company names. Unfortunately for us, the other company has developed a less than stellar reputation when it comes to jury research. Perhaps they are better at other services they offer, but I hear at least once a month about their poor quality jury research. Magnus excels in jury research, ADR research, jury selection, and more (see for a full list of services), but it is a problem when people think we are our similarly named competitor. I was thinking of this quote recently when riding by the beach and seeing a new hotel. The roof of that hotel looks very much like a small version of the Sydney Opera House – which I know well. The unique sail design of the opera house is very distinctive and it now forms the roof of this hotel in Florida. I wondered, would the folks at the Sydney Opera House be flattered by this imitation? I doubt it. And, so I end this post by saying we’re not flattered. So, please remember, there is only one Magnus, only one Magnus Research Consultants. If any confusion remains, let me know, and I’ll tell you more, privately.

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Colton about being flattered by imitation. Think about it. Is imitation leather flattering to real leather? Is eating imitation cheese ever a good idea? What exactly is imitation crab imitating? I could go on. When David and I discovered that one of our competitors had copied our name, we were horrified, not flattered. Adding insult to injury, this competitor with the name similar to Magnus does shoddy work, tarnishing our hard earned reputation of excellence. The copy catting doesn’t stop with the name. Of all the colors this company could have used for their corporate colors, logo, website, etc., they selected our beautiful burgundy and gold color scheme. What’s wrong with their using green and white, blue and gold, or even purple? When we confronted the owner of the company about the clear violation of our trademark, he admitted he never conducted any due diligence to see if there were any companies with the same or similar name to his desired company name. He also feigned ignorance regarding the fact that our and his company names are more than similar; they are, in fact, the male and female derivative of the same name. Interestingly enough, this person’s first name is a common male name that, by adding an “a,” can be made into a female name. I pointed out this grammar lesson to him and needless to say, he did not enjoy my tutorial about male and female naming traditions. I have never liked copy cats and I have never been accused of being one. There are plenty of good names one can name a company; why use my company’s name when others will suffice? Even after many years have passed since this imitator came into our world of trial consulting, I am anything but flattered. As David says, there is only one Magnus, so don’t be confused by imitators.

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