Moz vs. Doz: Trademark issues at play in ‘tragic’ naming dispute

MOZIs Doz too close to Moz?

That’s the question in a naming dispute which has arisen between the marketing software companies, both of which have undergone business and moniker changes in recent months.

Here’s the gist of the dispute: Seattle-based Moz — which ditched the name SEOmoz in late May — thinks the name Doz — launched in March 2013 by France-based Capseo — is just too close for comfort given that the two companies play in the same space.

Even though Moz’s name change occurred after the launch of Doz, lawyers for Moz believe they have the upper hand since they filed for a trademark application for the Moz name in August 2011. Doz followed suit with its own trademark filing in December 2012, three months before its public debut at the Launch conference in San Francisco.

doz11In an email to GeekWire, Moz Chief Operations Officer Sarah Bird called the situation “tragic” and pointed to a letter she sent to Doz CEO Anji Ismail in March in which she explained the rationale for sending the trademark takedown notice. Basically, Bird argued that the Moz and Doz products are very similar. She wrote:

“Allowing Doz to stay on the trademark register would substantially weaken our brands, confuse our customers, and probably cause all manner of major problems for us down the line as we have already sunk a lot of time, money and energy into Moz, and have built up substantial goodwill over the years with SEOmoz,” she wrote.

The letter continued:

“I realize that you may have sunk a lot of time, money and energy into Doz. And just to be clear, I don’t want to discourage you from offering complementary (or even competing) services to SEOmoz – just under a less confusing brand. So, we are open to suggestions about how to resolve this in the most friendly and least painful manner possible, but if we don’t hear from you soon we will just have to initiate the cancellation process.”

So far, the companies have not come to terms, and the legal salvos are progressing through a discovery phase. In April, Moz asked the registrar to take down the Doz name.

Sarah Bird

Sarah Bird

Ismail followed up with a guest post in the French online news site Rude Baguette in which the entrepreneur expressed anger and frustration about the trademark issue, calling the suit “meritless.”

“Why SEOmoz would like to cancel DOZ? No idea! “MOZ” is the ISO code for Mozambique. What if the President of Mozambique (Armando Guebuza) decides to claim moz.com? When approaching bigger companies be careful.”

Nonetheless, Moz still feels as if it has a stronger legal standing, and Bird tells us that she’s hopeful the issue can still be resolved without getting the lawyers involved.

“It is my sincere hope that Anji can continue to be successful with his product under a different brand,” Bird tells GeekWire. “And maybe he can use the Doz domain for a project other than inbound marketing software. I think he’s a very smart guy and he’s trying to solve tough problems. I hope he succeeds…. Trust me guys, I take no pleasure in this process. It sucks.”

Editor’s note: Moz is a GeekWire annual sponsor.

  • http://blog.findwell.com Kevin Lisota

    Um, if you look up the Doz trademark, it was filed on March 12, 2012, published for opposition on July 31, 2012 and registered on December 25, 2012. While I’m not familiar with how trademark law works in this case, I find it curious that this was not opposed during the opposition period. That is why trademarks are published for opposition, to give competing brands to object to them before registration.
    Why is Moz pursuing it now? Shouldn’t they have opposed it when it was in the opposition period? Is “we weren’t paying attention” a valid defense?

  • http://123socialmedia.com barryhurd

    Unfortunately for both Moz and Doz, I think this is pretty much a pointless argument on Trademark.

    As you shorten the literal length of any word it becomes more common. A short URL like MOZ.com or DOZ.com may look good on Twitter, but it also makes your trademark incredibly common and harder to enforce.

    Neither of them have a strong brand (SEOmoz didn’t successfully transfer brand continuity to Moz) and I think that is probably the big driving force for SEOmoz trying to capture the audience awareness they lost. In one name change they lost five years of awareness.

    The whole conversation is sad for the entrepreneurial community, which is sad when lawyers get involved (and that’s pretty difficult to remove lawyers from this situation, as Sarah Bird is an attorney/COO for Moz.)

  • panacheart

    So anything that rimes with Moz is a trademark violation? Seems like a frivolous claim.

    • Oz

      I am the great and powerful Oz! You’ve been warned…

  • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

    Just checked out Doz. You tell them how many visitors you want and from what sources and they quote you a price. Then they promise to deliver that number of visitors for that price. They guarantee they will come from blogs, search engines, and “social media”.

    I know a lot of sketchy black-hat ways to do that, but I don’t know of any respectable ones.
    I k

    • http://www.capseo.com Anji

      Hi Dan,

      You should start a campaign on http://www.doz.com so you’ll have a sense of how respectable we are. No black-hat and a strong ethical approach :-)

      • http://www.danshapiro.com/blog Dan Shapiro

        Saying you want visitors to your website is like saying you want people to show up at your party. Unless you know what you’re getting, you can wind up much worse off than when you started.

        Please explain how it works, and how I can validate your explanation. For example, if you’re running ads to drive visitors, show me where other customers’ ads are running, so I can verify that everything’s working the way it’s supposed to.

        • GoHomeDan

          Dan, I know a lot of people that make blanket assumptions without knowing the facts. Most of them are douchebags, i don’t know of any that aren’t.

          See how your logic sounds?

          Without knowing the specifics of how their business works you ASSUME. I guess in your world if you don’t know about it, it doesn’t exist?

          And OH MY GOD: “how I can validate your explanation…so I can verify that everything’s working the way’s it’s supposed to” “I” this, “I” that. SERIOUSLY!!??

          Do we all have to seek your tacit approval? Your ego needs to be brought down a notch Dan. You’re a forgotten, insecure house cat with a lion size ego and you squeak like a new born kitten.

          If they do engage in black hat tactics, prove it with evidence. Otherwise you’re just spouting crap from the peanut gallery.

          • Thomas R.

            Nobody expects the Shaprio inquisition!

            Seriously though, these types of lawsuits are a waste of time and money for both companies. They really should try to settle it amicably. Moz has the cash, just pay them to change their name, better than spending hundreds of thousands, possibly millions on lawyers fees. This is an international case and I can only imagine the “specialists” each firm will have to bring in to resolve this dispute.

      • _Hater_

        I am interested in your services but how come you have so few followers on facebook?

        • http://www.capseo.com Anji

          I guess three explanations:
          1. we are B2B
          2. we are not fan of “Likes” war
          3. we launched DOZ only 4 months ago

          Feel free to like our page though :-)

  • Boz

    Be careful what you wish for. Rand Fishkin has admitted (see below) that the moz in SEOmoz was derived from Mozilla, a made-up word which has been trademarked since 1997. Made-up words have very strong trademark protection. Deriving your name from somebody else’s made-up word is a dangerous thing to do. Up until now, the Mozilla folks have looked the other way, but now that they have shortened their name to drop the SEO part, their name is just a derivative of Mozilla. Considering that the new Moz is going after other companies, Mozilla may decide to go after them. And that could present a much problem for Moz than Doz (which is not derived from Mozilla). Moz might have to come up with a new name entirely. Not a smart move.

    See http://moz.com/blog/what-does-the-moz-in-seomoz-mean: “We’re building off the history of organizations like DMOZ, Mozilla, Chefmoz, etc.”

  • me

    Get over it, MOZ. It makes you looks small and unfocused. You can’t come up with a name Sapple and think that I will ever confuse it with Apple. Lawyers, half the time you are a time and money suck.

  • Guest

    Kudos to Mozilla for standing their ground. I don’t know what would motivate Doz to sponge off the name of America’s third-most-popular, fifth-most-innovative web browser, but such behaviour cannot stand.

  • http://www.acsius.com/ Arun Singh

    This must be a joke. No one is looking for MOZ by accident. People typing in MOZ are really not looking for DOZ…

  • guest

    Must we now cease referring to Wozniak as “Woz?”

    I realize Woz doesn’t engage in in-bound marketing, and ™’s are category based, but, to extend a “rhyme” into a ™ infringement zone?

    Maybe Moz should return to SEOmoz and retain their (fairy poor) branding, since no one is going to call themselves SEO_oz, like never, ever.

  • Mehmet Doz

    My name is Mehmet DOZ and I am a Kurdish American. DOZ is a word that has no much meaning in any other languages except Kurdish Language that most of people hardly know about it. DOZ word means “mission” and we are the first ones claimed this name for development projects that will help to build Kurdish Nation and Kurdish Regions in Middle East. We have been talking over to buy doz.com since 2010 with doz.com domain holder. DOZWEB was our business name since 2009 and it is a Distributor of Godaddy Company with http://www.dozdomain.com

    I have explained everyone well enough that DOZ is belong Kurdish People along with over 200 doz related domains(doz.co, doz.biz, doz.tv doz.fm etc…).

    The night I have shared my idea of trademarking doz with doz.com domain holder was a tragedy. These guys quickly applied to it in very next days without even telling me. After I learnt and respond it with my application it was already too late. Probably that was biggest mistake i have done in my life to trust a guy that was calling me brother and mentioning our common respected religion of Islam.

    Whatever after seeing MOZ.com has dispute about this unfair trade mark application, I just want to say that, the concern MOZ must have is honesty of these guys that can do everything to benefit themselves. My opinion MOZ.com must be very worried and make sure their business concept is not copied by someone that has very similar trademark name. Because they took my idea why not yours? For More information you contact me at info@mehmetdoz.com.

    • Faouzi ELYAGOUBI

      Are you talking about this?

      Or maybe this : http://www.legalforce.com/doz-85584325.html

      • Mehmet Doz

        Faouzi you know, we talked maybe 100 times over this name, and i have told you what “DOZ” name means to us, how honest can you be, just sharing my 1st email that I have contacted you at the beginning because doz.com was (still is) for sale on sedo.com.

        Yes doz is a private project for my own people. These people are the Kurds, largest nation on the planet without a state!

        Yes I am doz collector and doz investor. For me and my family having or not having doz.com is not a big deal, having the soul of “doz” is the everything.

        We both know DOZ is just 3 letter domain name for you and its great that sounds same as MOZ. (I believe, It is not right to take advantage of an established brand.)

        But, For us DOZ is a life journey and purpose of existence…

        I wish you good luck my Moroccan brother, but just know this USA is not the place, that you can freely fool people.