Small Biz Takes Monster Case to eBay

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It turns out you can’t sell justice for a dollar on eBay, Christina Vitagliano, proprietor of Monster Mini Golf, told WebProNews, but you can sell discount coupons to raise money for a legal fight against Monster Cable.

eBay shut down Vitagliano’s original listing because listed sellers must sell something tangible—i.e., no donations accepted. Now, a customer can buy $2 off of a round of minigolf for just a dollar, good at one of 23 Monster Mini Golf locations.
Small Biz Takes Monster Case to eBay
With less than a week left on the new listing, Vitagliano and her husband have accrued $5,000 toward the $100,000-plus needed to defend themselves against a notoriously litigious and much larger company, alleging use of the term “monster” constitutes trademark infringement. Monster Cable seems to fear some confusion of its audio cables with Monster Mini Golf, where Monster Energy Drink is sold.
Small Biz Takes Monster Case to eBay
Vitagliano readily admits she and her husband Patrick, thanks to years of hard work and hard budgeting, no longer qualify as a “mom and pop” organization, but their franchisees certainly are. The couple recently graduated from living on the floor of their office to a humble loft apartment in Rhode Island.

“We are self-funded, no investors, no partners,” Vitagliano said. “We still work 24/7 and every penny we have we put back in our business. When you grow up working, that’s what you do.”

Though the US Patent and Trademark office approved Monster Mini Golf’s application for trademark, Noel Lee, self-described “head monster” at Monster Cable, deployed his also self-described “slimiest of all slimy lawyers” to challenge the approval. The Vitaglianos join over 400 other companies Monster Cable has taken legal action against, all of whom dared to use the word “monster” in their business, even some in existence with a registered trademark before Monster Cable.

A search at the USPTO brings back 2344 filings involving the word monster, and 19 pages of Monster Cable legal challenges against marks and companies, big and small, like: Monster Ballads, Monsters of Rock, Booby Monster, Monster Balls, Monster Ballz, Monster Garage, Scooby Doo and the Monster of Mexico, Monster Seats, Jingle Bell Monster, Monster Truck, Monster Snot, Boogie Monsters, Monster Choppers, Monster Glue, Monster Refreshment (Coca Cola), Monster Pis, Monster Samurai, Monster Paint, Monster Tax, Monster Baby.

Vitagliano says she was going to send Mr. Lee a list of enemies he’s made, but the list got to be so long she gave up.

It would be interesting to hear the argument for how Monster Cable could be confused with Monster Snot or an episode of Scooby Doo. Unfortunately, many of those arguments never get made because big companies settle, finding it cheaper to pay the licensing fees, and small companies, with legal fees mounting at $450 per hour, just go away and die or rebrand. Either way, Monster Cable benefits.
Vitagliano compares Monster Cable to Starbucks, having the mission to crush every mom-and-pop coffee shop in the nation. She lists among small retailers Monster Computer Cases, run by Daniel Mosher out of his home, and Monster Vintage, a small vintage clothing company run by a handicap woman, as recent small-business targets.

Vitagliano’s goal is to make this as public a fight as possible, hence the eBay listing, and of course to stand up for small businesses “bullied” by Monster Cable. The publicity has helped a little so far. She says Kurt Denke, proprietor of Blue Jeans Cable, who is known as one of the most successful defendants against Monster Cable, agreed to match any funds raised by the eBay listing. A local NBC affiliate in Rhode Island also has covered the story, the video from which is now on YouTube.

Said affiliate was more successful at getting a statement from Monster Cable than WebProNews; neither Mr. Lee nor his PR team returned request for comment. From the newscast:

“Monster [Cable] is not a company that frivolously uses litigation against other businesses, in fact we consider lawsuits to be a last resort option. Unfortunately, as in the case of Monster Mini Golf, our fair and reasonable offer for the company to continue using our trademark under a license was refused.”

Apparently no comment was offered in reference to the company’s litigation against Scooby Doo or any of the other 2,000 or so other businesses using their trademark. Vitagliano’s supporters have also had trouble seeking additional comment—reports have said emails with subject lines regarding Monster Mini Golf have been redirected to the trash. She says also she tried to schedule a sit-down chat, business-owner to business-owner, with Mr. Lee.

“I thought if we are going to give up the company we built literally with our hands then I want to meet the man I’m writing the check to,” she said.

Mr. Lee, she says, would not consent to an in-person meeting.

Small Biz Takes Monster Case to eBay
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  • http://www.monstercable.com Pete

    On Behalf of Noel Lee, the founder of Monster Cable.

    I am aware of your concerns regarding the lawsuit that we filed against Monster Mini Golf, a Rhode Island-based company that franchises miniature golf establishments across the U.S. (currently 24 locations). Suffice to say we take this lawsuit very seriously and filed only as a necessary measure to protect our established trademark rights.

    Regardless of what false representations have been circulated about Monster, we are not a faceless corporate giant out to squash legitimate business concerns and rising entrepreneurs. We are in fact, a family-owned company that relies heavily on our brand name and reputation in order to continue serving our customers. We have always tried to provide our customers with the highest performance products at an affordable price. While we are best known for our cable products, we also manufacture high performance accessories in business areas ranging in home theater, computing, gaming, portable entertainment and power management. To protect these business areas, we have sought and been awarded trademarks for each respective category. In addition to the areas above, in the past 30 years, we have also expanded the categories including sports and other lifestyle ventures. According to the trademark law, we must enforce our marks or we will lose them and they will become generic.

    We were trying our best to avoid the lawsuit, and we are trying our best to settle the lawsuit.

    We appreciate your viewpoints and hope you will review the attached documents to fully understand the facts before making judgments against myself or my company.


    Noel Lee

  • http://www.monstercable.com/ Guest

    Public Proposal to Monster Mini Golf

    The internet has changed how companies like us can defend our brand and prevent the dilution of our trademarks by those who choose to infringe on them. By appealing to consumers

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