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Is a Big Bully Trying to Strong-arm a Tiny Startup into Surrendering its Business?

It certainly looks that way at first blush. Apparently venture capital firm Lightbank and one of its portfolio companies, WhosHere, are resorting to legal intimidation to pressure a tiny startup, Who’s Near Me, into surrendering its  domain names, Facebook page, Twitter account, as well as pay over $5,100 in legal fees.

Take a moment to compare the two domains:

– http://www.wnmlive.com/

– http://myrete.com/ (We are not going to link to this site for two reasons. One is principle and the other is that their site doesn’t load. ) http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/http://myrete.com/ confirmed that was down at the time of this writing. Maybe somebody over there forgot to pay the hosting bill?)

However, the real thorn in Lightbody’s side appears to be the name more so than the domain. The company has issued an ultimate:

About a year ago, I received a cease and desist letter from WhosHere, a VC-funded ($1.25 million from Lightbank) company with a somewhat similar iPhone application, alleging trademark infringement over the similarity of our product names: Their name is “WhosHere” and mine is “Who’s Near Me”. I, as well as several lawyer friends I spoke to, were highly skeptical that they were similar enough for it to actually be trademark infringement, but given that all I wanted to do was spend my money on and keep building product, I had no desire to get sucked into a legal case and agreed to change the name to “WNM Live,” which I believe to be an inferior name but I did it anyway. I kept the text “Who’s Near Me” below the WNM and in some other places (you can see for yourself at wnmlive.com) so that you at least know what the WNM stands for.

This is ugly stuff.  If it’s true it’s sad to see. It’s about the lowest form of competition a company can sink to. It usually means “Since we can’t out-compete you, we will try to leverage our deep legal pockets to put you out of business.”

Way to go Lightbody! The startup community will not forget this if it’s true.

Someone obviously forget to consider the optics of such goon tactics.

Read the full story here: A VC-funded startup called WhosHere is trying to steal my social network – help!

 

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