Yesterday marked the launch of Parentlode, a new Huffington Post blog written by former New York Times reporter Lisa Belkin. Sound familiar? That’s probably because Belkin spent the past three years writing the similarly named parenting blog Motherlode for the Times' website. But rather than considering the HuffPo’s imitation the highest form of flattery, the paper is threatening to use legal force to keep the rival site from using the Parentlode name.
In a cease-and-desist letter obtained by WWD, New York Times Co. lawyer Richard Samson told HuffPo, “While we are flattered by your focus on our blog and your apparent fondness for its name, we obviously cannot permit you to adopt a name whose sole purpose is to create an association in the minds of readers with our ‘Motherlode’ blog . . . This is a transparent attempt to capitalize on the fame and reputation of the original nytimes.com blog, and constitutes an obvious infringement of The Times’ rights under U.S. Trademark law.” If AOL and HuffPo fail to respond to the letter within three days, Samson warned, “we will have no choice but to pursue all available legal remedies.”
A Times spokeswoman confirmed that the newspaper filed an application with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the Motherlode name yesterday. AOL, meanwhile, filed its own application to trademark Parentlode, which Samson demanded it withdraw, along with changing the blog’s name.
Belkin has openly addressed her blog titles' similarities, writing in her first Parentlode post, “For three years I have fielded reader emails about how ‘Motherlode’ doesn't really fit in an era when fathers are every bit the parent . . . For three years I have answered those emails by saying that a brand is a brand, and the Times wasn't inclined to change this one, but if I were choosing today I would choose something more inclusive.”
That explanation, however, only “encourages the false impression that the HuffPo blog is a continuation of the Motherlode blog, albeit with a new name,” Samson argued. He also noted that HuffPo used the Motherlode tag to index the Parentlode blog.
When contacted about the situation by WWD, a HuffPo spokesman replied, “Our only comment is that we’re very happy with the launch of Lisa Belkin’s column today—and so are our readers.”