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Being Sued by Big Business Competition
Tom Szaky has a new business – TerraCycle provides organic plant food, made from worm feces, and just recently secured its major financial backer. But just about that time, Szaky received a 173 page lawsuit. The Plaintiff: Scotts Miracle-Gro. Their accusations: that TerraCycle falsely claims that its product “outgrows the leading synthetic fertilizer,” and trade dress issues (in other words, TerraCycle’s packaging too closely resembles Miracle-Gro’s).
How do you, as a small business owner, deal with the squeeze from the big business corporate competition. Well, it’s foremost important to keep in mind that, if you make claims against those competitors, like your product can outgrow their’s, you probably need to make sure you can back up that claim.
Even if you can back up your statements, dishing out up to a million dollars to defend yourself in a lawsuit (even if you’re right) is not something that seems very feasible for a small business, especially one just getting started. So, you may want to consider playing hardball by appealing to the public.
That’s what Szaky has done. He started a website (SuedByScotts.com) that makes it look like TerraCycle is being bullied by Scott’s. And he tactics have been getting the attention of the media (and bloggers… obviously). In other words, Szaky is using PR to get the public on his side and put the heat on Scotts.
How will this help? Well, by getting the public to side with the little guy, pressure is put on the big business to back off, whether it be through boycots or simply peer pressure. After all, we have learned through many similar circumstances that the average consumer doesn’t like the little guy being picked on. Our frustrations with the grade school bully carry on through adulthood. When corporate America accuses that needle-in-a-haystack company of “unfair competition,” it seems a little unrealistic.
As a nation we tend to want small business to succeed. We push for it. So, getting the public involved may not be such a bad idea. I personally would avoid making any false accusations – I wouldn’t want to stoop to that level and turn things into a war of words. But I would definitely bring the obvious to the public’s attention in hopes of strengthening my defense. Especially if my “trade dress” has little similarity to that of the competition, as with TerraCycle and Miracle-Gro (see picture).
• Inc.com: Legal Lemons, PR Lemonade
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