4 years ago
 

UPDATED: Intellectual property mayhem: the curious tale of two travelers, a quirky idea and a corporation

UPDATE: Adecco has posted the following note to their Facebook page, saying that they’ve come to an agreement with Barr regarding the Around the World in 80 Jobs project. Tnooz has reached out to both Barr and Adecco for comment, and will update as news arrives.

The most obvious change is that the company has changed the name of the contest to “The Job Experience Contest,” dropping any mention of the original contentious name. Adecco has also agreed to all of Barr’s terms, including donating $50,000 to helping rescue abused elephants in Thailand. Read more from Barr here, and a statement released to Inc. magazine from Adecco said: 

“We have apologized to Turner Barr and have come to an agreement about how we can make it right with him. We will also deliver on our promise to our contest winners who deserve a unique job experience… We’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks. We will work to make this right. We will do this because we are a company of great people who sometimes make mistakes, learn from them, and do better next time.”

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

The hashtag “makeitright” has been trending in recent days in the travel Twittersphere, as what appears to be a rather curious stand-off between a travel blogger and large company has unfolded.

But what started out as a very public battle between a beleaguered travel blogger and a nasty brand has since evolved to being more of an expose as to what happens when individuals and companies fight over ideas.

The short version: a travel blogger had an idea, got into a bit of a tussle with a company over claims that it used his idea without permission or payment, but it turns out he wasn’t the first to have the idea anyway.

So what happened?

The timeline

Fellow bloggers and other online cohorts last week voiced their disapproval of recruitment brand Adecco’s usage of a name shared by independent blogger Turner Barr’s 2-year-old project Around The World in 80 Jobs – which is also the concept behind a video posted two years ago to Vimeo by an individual named Bob Beresh.

Registered on October 23 2011, Barr’s website has been tracking his world travels, as he shoots videos and documenting his world travels via the jobs he does. The website includes a series of informative pieces about how to get jobs coveted by travelers.

Adecco, for its part, registered the trademark “Around the World in 80 Days,” claiming use dating back to December 21 2012.

The categories registered are” IC 035, Employment agency services,” and “IC 041, Providing workshops and personalized seminars (also online) in the field of…persons looking for work.”

The company then launched a contest, also called Around the World in 80 Days, where contestants play games, upload videos and eventually go through a jury in order to win a prize package where “the 8 winners will travel around the world in 10 jobs each; all together performing 80 jobs in various countries.”

Since made private by Adecco on YouTube after the controversy erupted, here’s the video promoting the contest:

One of the most contentious parts of the online discussion is the perceived similarity between Adecco’s main video and Turner’s likeness, as seen in Turner’s video response to the controversy below.

Turner, for his part, says that there was a six-week back and forth with Adecco North America’s CMO Ed Blust, along with its lawyers, which eventually culminated in a promise to fly him to NYC for a face-to-face meeting – something that Barr claims to have paid for himself when the plane ticket didn’t materialize.

At this point, if Adecco isn’t going to be serious and treat me well, then I’m not going to play. Eventually they sent me another contract that offered me $25,000 but with the clause that I would release them from all liability. If I would have got that from the beginning, I would have been stoked. That’s a lot of money for a blogger.

They didn’t even offer to put that into writing until I flew to New York on my own dime! Now we’re in this situation where I feel bullied, and I’m interested in a positive solution. I haven’t said anything negative, I’m just telling the truth.

I don’t want to get a lawyer involved, with the money that would go to lawyers, something positive can come of it. I haven’t done anything wrong, and I don’t feel the need to be sued or sue anyone. I just want to work for a positive, fair solution that compensates bloggers – who are out there working hard, often working for free. So when the chance for something paid comes up, we want it.

Now that my brand has been co-opted, it reduces the value of what I’ve created.

We’re out here following out dreams, and this company is out there offering to fulfill others’ dreams while taking away from my dream. I didn’t ask for this. And I can’t sign a release to say what they’re doing was ok. I just believe bloggers should be compensated for their work.

In regards to a resolution, Barr proposes the following:

A positive solution would be for them to stop using my brand, which I’ve used for 2 years; compensate me fairly for using the brand that they’ve gotten value from; and finally, doing something good and positive for charity, as its all about good faith and doing the right thing.

I don’t want to be embroiled in this right now, either. I’m supposed to be working my way around the world!

In his latest update, Barr also asks Adecco to donate to a Thai non-profit that rehabs abused elephants.

Tnooz was unable to get direct access to these emails to confirm this timeline, and two requests for comment directed both at Adecco’s Contact Us page and head of PR Vannessa Almeida were not returned for comment.

Reality check needed

It also appears that the “Around the World in 80 Jobs” concept has been floating around the internet for quite some time. Some research unveiled a video uploaded to Vimeo on October 17 2011, entitled “Around the World in 80 Jobs – Sizzel Reel V1.”

The clip was produced by Bob Beresh and featured traveler Ryan Abelman and the content promises a reality show surrounding the very same concept.

[EMBED disabled, please view here]

Six days after this clip was posted to Vimeo, Turner registered his current domain name. Tnooz reached out to Beresh to learn more about the project, but hadn’t heard back at time of publication.

So the story evolves to become something more nuanced, with the question of idea genesis, ownership and execution coming into relief. And of course, the concept of “Around The World…” came from Jules Verne some 140 years ago, so the idea in and of itself is remixed from another person’s creative capital.

Is the question who’s first? Or is it who executes first? Or perhaps who executes best? Who owns the idea, especially if one’s execution is bested by another’s? The mantra of “Don’t pioneer, perfect,” plays into that attitude – you don’t have to be first, you have to be best.

Nonetheless, this philosophy doesn’t matter if a traditional PR crisis gets in the way. Here are some obvious lessons learned from the Around the World in 80 Jobs story.

Due diligence!

Adecco has registered “Around the World in 80 Jobs” in two categories, staffing services and education related to staffing services.

There is no obvious direct overlap with the blog, and in the US “you can establish rights in a mark based on use of the mark in commerce, without a registration.” However, it’s going to be difficult to argue that the blog has established a claim in the trademarked category.

What’s happened though, is that Turner’s blog is no longer appealing to anyone in the staffing services category – a very obvious category for sponsorship.

By simply using a name that has been floating around the Internet – and then by trademarking and splashing the TM site-wide – Adecco loses a serious amount of goodwill. Even if it was unintentional, the impact is still very real – and appears to be very large.

Is it possible that the company might have legitimately come up with the name themselves without even knowing about the blog? Sure. Is it likely that the very same company that went to the trouble to trademark the term didn’t do their due diligence with a simple Google search? Who knows.

Regardless, it is just not worth it to allegedly borrow someone’s idea in the quick-pace of a connected world. Why not just reach out and ask him to partner from the get go, with a very legitimate compensation?

Eliza Andersen, the Global PR manager for Intrepid Travel, worked very successfully with the couple behind food travel website The Perennial Plate. She spoke with Tnooz last year about the keys to success in working with bloggers as paid partners:

With a traditional media relationship, you’ve got information that they need for their story and the transaction can be very one off – it’s based on that particular story. Whereas with bloggers, and this partnerhsip, it’s much more holistic and ongoing.

The moment, for me, was the ability to assess the worth and value of the blogger, and to really understand the potential.

The big thing was the quality of the content and the distribution value that [the Perennial Plate] had. That’s something we will be looking for in future partnerships with bloggers.

In addition, [a project] that has value for [the bloggers] to be associated with as well. This is their business and livelihood, and knowing what you can offer them is really important too.

The lesson here is to approach bloggers with ideas – don’t just assume ideas can be re-mixed or created in-house.

Take the time to identify marketing objectives and seek out partners that already have legitimacy in the field. Bloggers are simply trying to make a decent living doing what they love, and brands can affordably engage these voices.

Social media can be a boon – and a beast

Regardless of intention, the missed opportunity here was to fuel this campaign with a blogger-centered promotion – especially for a brand that is centered around teaching younger folks best practices for acquiring jobs.

Social media, which is the crux of many a competition, could have been a boon here for the company.

It’s the way that people apply, upload videos, and share with their networks. It’s the primary reason why online competitions can be so valuable to companies – the viral factor is exponential. However, when a compeition goes wrong, it can quickly flare up like a brushfire.

Case in point: The company hasn’t removed their Twitter stream from the site, showing the stream of negative tweets. When left uncontrolled, social media can truly get out of hand.

The YouTube video is also steadily racking up comments, which don’t bode well for Adecco. The Internet can be fickle, but it seems that the crescendo is reaching fever pitch.

The company posted the following comment to its Facebook page:

We’re sorry for some recent negative comments. We’d like to make something clear.

The intention of Adecco’s youth initiative was to give perspective to young people so they can better prepare to enter the workforce and achieve their ambitions. Youth unemployment throughout the world is an at all time high. This can not stand.

We understand there is concern with the use of the term ‘Around The World In 80 Jobs’ and we take this seriously. We’ve worked to resolve this and to create a mutually beneficial solution. We will continue to do so. In the meantime, our only goal is to inspire young people to find a way to work. We invite you to join us.

Your Adecco Way to Work Team

The responses were unsurprisingly terse:

Bloggers, most of which are presumably unaware of the video that appeared BEFORE Turner’s idea, have come out in support of their brethren’s attempt to get fairly compensated for his brand. Many bloggers have experienced larger brands trying to either get them to work for free – aka “the press trip” – or to enter into a partnership that does not have fair compensation.

Sheila Scarborough, an experienced travel writer and partner at Tourism Currents, suggests that ignoring the issue is just making it worse.

I don’t know Turner and don’t follow his blog, but saw Jen Miner (from The Vacation Gals) tweet a link to his blog post, so I went to read it. When I compared his site with Adecco’s Way to Work, the similarities were quite striking and I became angry at an organization that either didn’t do their research before crafting their campaign, or simply stole Barr’s concept because they thought he’d be powerless to do anything about it.

[I] would be happy to hear Adecco’s side of the story, if there is one that’s credible…They should admit their mistake and shut down the campaign. It’s almost certainly too late to offer to pay Turner to come aboard their team as a brand ambassador, which would have been a possible move in the very beginning.

It seems that they have offered monetary payment to Barr, after he paid his way to New York City two days ago.

Barr:

That offer for $25,000 was only two days ago that I received the contract. They never put this in writing for an entire month. While that money would be great to take – that’s a lot of money for a blogger –  the integrity of the story is more important at this point. I’m not comfortable with the way this went down – the way it happened was very one-sided and not productive.

Tnooz has reached out for comment on this as well from Adecco, and have not heard back.

Later in the day on Friday last week, the situation kept growing in influence, as Adecco posted another missive:

We have seen and heard your sincere concern about our recent youth employment initiative and take your feedback very seriously. We deeply regret if we hurt Turner Barr. This was never our intention when we set up our “Around the World in 80 Jobs” contest.

We clearly see that Turner is an inspiration to many people. We feel there should be more of such initiatives that inspire people to live their dreams and achieve their ambitions. Unfortunately, we moved forward with a name and contest that clearly upset Turner and his community. We sincerely apologize for that mistake.

When Turner contacted us about his concern, and we understood the full situation, we immediately engaged with him to try to make things right. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find common ground so far.

Most of all, we are sorry that an initiative we truly care about – youth unemployment – has been negatively received.

This post brought ever-more influential people to the fold. Peter Shankman, well-known web personality and founder of Help A Reporter Out, left the following comment:

Without any sort of direct engagement to these comments – the brand has chosen to not reply directly to these people – the comments are left to stand on their own.

The request for the company to take down the campaign, or review the process in which it was enacted, were not met or acknowledged by the company, further fueling the feedback loop.

Crisis management is now a required core competency

Businesses of all sizes must realize that crisis management is a de facto skill set in today’s environment. If this is not a core competency, executive teams either need to invest in training or pre-emptively hire a firm that can actively manage situations that become crises.

It is not always easy to tell when a situation will blow up or blow over. Nonetheless, having a procedure and training in place to deal with these PR crises is vital to withstand an attack – both merited and not.

It is no longer good enough to just ignore it, hoping it will go away. Certainly, the Internet is fickle and can move on quickly. However, brand damage can happen quickly and fiercely – and today’s brands, especially travel brands that deal in many potential emergency situations, need to be prepared.

Know your values – and know your ideas

This situation made it very clear that Adecco was straddling the line between values: a company purporting to be about helping youth unemployment should have recognized an opportunity to develop a fruitful relationship with an entrepreneurial young person out in the world making work happen.

By fully integrating, verbalizing and acting on understood values, brands come from a place of power where each decision reflects a clear perspective. This perspective should fuel and propel the brand forward, not confuse and pull the brand down from where it sees itself.

This also means that, before accusing anyone of stealing an idea (remember: Turner has been claiming it is his idea), one must be *absolutely certain* that it was your idea originally. As any incubator coach/angel/VC will say: ideas truly are a dime a dozen, it’s the execution that matters.

Abelman was arguably there first, if one wants to split hairs about the recent Around The World In 80 Jobs activity.

One must be absolutely certain of one’s idea ownership – and then one must protect that intellectual property with trademarks. In this day and age, those protections matter – even for the smallest fry.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick is the Editorial Director for Tnooz. Prior to this role, Nick has multi-hyphenated his way through a variety of passions: restaurateur, photographer, filmmaker, corporate communicator, Lyft driver, Airbnb host, journalist, and event organizer.

 

Comments

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  1. ES

    I feel like I may be missing something. Sounds to me like he was certain and committed from the very start that he was not going to get a lawyer or go the legal route for various reasons including delay, asking compensation to go to charity, etc. But he started an IndieGogo page predominantly asking funding for a lawyer. Do I have that right?

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      The IndieGogo page was towards the very end of the saga, only after the collective wisdom was really pushing for the lawyer.

      From the beginning, Barr claims to have wanted to resolve this without any input from lawyers, given the cost and complexity of such a move.

      There was a resolution reached this week; however, we have not been told any details whatsoever about it, as both parties are mum.

      N

       
  2. Gary Arndt

    Something simliar happened to me in 2010.

    T-Mobile and Orange in the UK merged to form a new company. The new name they picked was “Everything Everywhere”.

    After the barrage of email I got telling me how I was going to be rich (HA!) I contacted my friend who was an IP attorney and asked him what he thought.

    In a nutshell, I didn’t end up doing anything and didn’t make it into a public crusade for several reasons:

    1) I’m not a British Citizen and the mobile company is based in the UK. As far as I know, they don’t operate outside the UK, other than roaming. Whatever happened would have to happen in the UK.

    2) We are in very different industries. It is hard to confuse a travel website and a mobile phone company.

    3) They had more money than me.

    4) I was using it first, so they really couldn’t prevent me from continuing to use the name. That was my big concern.

    I did speak with their head of communications who mentioned providing me with a phone and mobile service, but they never followed through with that.

    Three years later, what was the impact of their decision to use the name I was using?

    – They rebranded and are now known as EE. From what I’ve read, the consensus was that the original branding was a horrible move.

    – I don’t rank #1 for my own name in Google in most of Europe, but it doesn’t really matter. If people are looking for me, they aren’t looking for a UK mobile company and vice versa. I can still easily be found and there has been a slight uptick in traffic coming to my site search for that phrase. More searches outweighs being ranked #2.

    – I occasionally get random links from publications who accidentally link to me when they want to link to them. I got a link from Bloomberg.com that way once 🙂

    There are many things about my case which are very different from Turner’s (they didn’t steal my likeness and there was no overlap in our subject matter).

    In the end, there was very little impact to me and vice versa. When I’m in the UK and talk to people, I often have to explain that I was using the name first, but that’s about it.

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Gary

      Thanks for that perspective! I have a feeling that there are many more cases like this. Choosing your battles is important – and not easy. It’s hard to predict how a situation will play out, especially in a big v small situation.

      Glad to hear that it worked out though. It also seems that Adecco and Turner have come to an agreement, so keep an eye out for that update!

      Thanks for reading,

      N

       
  3. Kevin May

    Kevin May

    @all – Turner may not have added any comments here, but has left a message on a Facebook group for travel bloggers:

    “Hey guys. I am sorry to have been not very vocal on here. But I wanted to say I am humbled and really appreciated all of your support. It has been amazing. First off, I decided to not go the legal route, even though financially I would have been much better off because I wanted to do what I felt was both right, but also I wanted to make a stand for the community as a whole and show that we are important and our brands do matter. I didnt want to stay silent. I think there is a misunderstanding of how going the legal route would would have effected the PR, and a willingness for a big business to acknowledge that, not with money but with a public statement of it. I was willing to take a risk and give up a bigger deal for that. The support you have all shown has really inspired me and pulled me up when I was really feeling out. I also decided against the lawyer route because I wanted to get a big donation to the save elephants, and when lawyers get involved, they want a cut, not charity. I wanted to keep this thing positive and constructive for the community so that we can come out looking better. As per the indiegogo, my initial intent was to do it also for save elephant or for travel blogger association but couldnt get in touch with the stake holders fast enough to have guaranteed deliverables to be able to get it done. I am not really good with computers like many of you, and I have been overwhelmed with millions of different things coming at me. I went with the indiegogo to raise money for my site for a few reasons. My friend had to loan me and help me financially to get the site migrated to a proper host/server to keep the site live and this costs money. If it went the legal route I would need some funding. It wasnt clear how it would turn out. But in the end, we are trying to make the stance that we are brands and legit businesses, so to raise money for help running that business, I am surprised at the backlash. My intent is too keep it positive and I wanted to say thank you all for your support thus far. It has really been amazing being in a community that has stood together so well thus far, i really dont wish for people to start fighting amongst each other. I will try to get more info out as I can do so about Adecco, but just know, I appreciate all of you.”

     
  4. Corinne

    My business is http://havebabywilltravel.com – and I did trademark it but have yet to put the little circled R at the end of my name. I spent the minimal fee to file myself, and it took THREE YEARS via so many back and forths since I don’t speak legalese.

    To be fair, the Trade Mark folks were very nice and patient. I certainly got enough inquiries from lawyers that obviously sift through new files and contact those without legal firms attached – which made me nervous thinking someone might contest simply to make me seek legal counsel. Knowing the only way to keep it valid by defending it also made/makes me nervous.

    There was a book published with that title seven years prior to my launch (13 years ago now), but since the domain names were available, I figured it was fair game. Since, of course, everyone and their brother who write about traveling with a baby call their articles Have Baby Will Travel, I’ve only contacted people who’ve added it as part of their blog’s tag line or category within their blog and asked them to remove it. Most complied, with the exception of a large UK publishing outlet (litigious towards those who use their content w/o paying, I might add) who refuse to return my emails. A large hotel chain launched a blog with a similar name, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

    I wish him luck, but I’m not a fan of crowd sourcing unless there are tangible benefits attached for contributing. Maybe it’s not too late for him to lawyer up?

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Perhaps there could be a specific crowdfunding site for trademarking? That would be great! This would be a community-focused way to allow creatives to protect work without having to pay 100%.

       
  5. Katie

    I echo a lot of what’s been said above. People mention the potential legal costs if Turner decided to take action against Adecco (like fighting their trademark application), but there are attorneys out there who could help him on a pro bono basis – maybe not completely free, but at significantly reduced rates (I used to practice law at a large firm and took on several such clients every year – firms love to do it b/c it’s good PR and good training for young lawyers). And many cities have groups of attorneys who will assist artists/writers/entertainers – here in Chicago, it’s called Lawyers for the Creative Arts. At the very least, he should find someone who can help him challenge Adecco’s trademark application. If they get that trademark approved, it opens the door for them to come after him.

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Katie, that’s great advice! If you have any connections at Lawyers for the Creative Arts, perhaps you could send them along to me to pass along to Turner.

      From my conversation with him on Friday, the thought of hiring a lawyer and dealing with it seemed daunting. And it most certainly is.

      I’m also disheartened at some that would give up on the case because Turner has done an Indiegogo page. Perhaps not the best move, but nonetheless, as Adecco remains silent, there’s no one else to hate on. Just as the blogosphere turned on Adecco, now they turn on Turner. It’s that endless loop of the mob mentality that Adecco was hedging on – a hedge that worked.

      Many instructive lessons here, and I’m just counting the time until the next big corporate kerfuffle that makes us all scratch our heads in wonder…

      N

       
  6. Christine Gilbert

    I think we’ll hear more on this in the coming weeks and it’s not going to be as clear cut as it first appeared. But to this article’s point that there was another video using that term, “Around the World in 80 Jobs” I think to most of us, it wasn’t JUST that Adecco used the same phrase, which is based on a book title anyway, it was that they lifted the concept, the look, the style of Turner Barr’s project and that the actor was so similar to him. That’s not the case with this previous video that you mention.

    When this really fell apart for me was yesterday — and before that I had left a half dozen messages on Adecco’s FB page and wrote a post about this for Medium.com — but when I read that Turner Barr was NOT getting a lawyer, that he hadn’t heard from Adecco but was submitting his “demands” via blog post, which to me, is incredibly tacky to ask for $50,000 cash from a company via blog post — despite the charity aspect, by the way what does Thai Elephants have to do with any of this, and why $50,000 — that’s a King’s ransom in Thailand and they already self-support the program with tourists — but what really baffled me was Barr asking for donations to “keep his website alive”. He’s raising money not just for legal fees (but he has no lawyer) but also his travels, a lovely remodel of his blog design, and whatever else he could dream up:

    $5,000 and he’ll come visit you and tell you travel tales?
    $25,000 and he’ll come work for you for a month?

    What kind of fantasy world is this? And the travel bloggers who are discussing this on FB in their private groups are cheering this on, like Adecco is going to send Ed McMahon down with a giant cardboard check. (Which would be really shocking because he died four years ago).

    Let’s be clear: Barr just said he refused a $25,000 offer, has zero contact with the company and is not lawyering up. I bet Adecco is just trying to figure out their liability on the contest side– can the contestants sue them, but then they’ll let this play out and fade from memory rather than pay a publicly disclosed sum to a blogger in what will appear to outsiders as mob extortion. If he had any kind of case he’d get a lawyer, so something else is going on here.

     
    • Peter Parkorr

      Interesting take! I never got as far as reading that IndieGoGo page, but sounds like an attempt to redress some monetary loss from the surges of traffic maybe. I don’t like seeing any blogs that ask for donations tho really, unless it is a Pay What It’s Worth scenario in exchange for something useful to the reader.

      Agreed that a lawyer would be sensible now, but fair play that he was giving Adecco another chance to solve it without a legal battle and higher legal costs. Maybe he is just not disclosing that he is working with lawyers too.

       
    • Jenneil Parks

      I don’t think it is fair to say “travel bloggers who are discussing this on FB in their private groups are cheering this on” – Many of us have expressed concern with the fact he is asking for more than legal costs in those “private groups.” Others have expressed concern with the $50,000 request.

      As Mac said above, he could have approached the “creative” or blogging community asking for help with his site/hosting, etc and many would probably be willing to assist. I, for one, am not going to help pay for travel costs and equipment, sorry Turner. He has already gained traffic, Twitter followers, etc and can utilize that momentum/ranking and leverage that for sponsorships, etc.

       
      • Nick Vivion

        Nick Vivion

        I like that approach – asking for help to cope with the pressures of increased traffic, in addition to improving the site so that it continues to appeal.

        Doubling down on the concept, and building the best brand possible, is really the only way to go. By focusing on maintaing the core value of the concept, Barr can make it past this distraction to go on and do great things. Haters gonna hate, and as long as the core values are withheld and maintained, he could build a bigger, better brand than before.

        One thing that’s been nagging me: Where’s a rival staffing group on this one? Seems like someone is missing a giant opportunity to step in, offer Turner his $50k and $50k donation, and make him the spokesperson for youth employment worldwide. Manpower? Kelly Services?

        N

         
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Hey Christine!

      Thanks for the response. From my conversation with Barr on Friday, he just does not want to lawyer up because he doesn’t want to risk both being on the hook until a verdict is reached and for the time it would take to do that.

      After his 6-weeks of back-and-forth, it appeared to me that he was simply weary and tired, unsure of what to do. He’s getting advice from all over the place, and the IndieGoGo campaign must have been someone’s advice on what he should do.

      In these sorts of high-stakes, high-profile situations, it’s often difficult to know when to cut and run. No matter how unfair a situation seems, there’s an opportunity cost to staying in the game. At some point, it’s a losing battle no matter what happens.

      Adecco also has endless legal capabilities. With 4.6 billion Euro in revenues, it’s a formidable opponent that most law firms would be reluctant to take on pro-bono.

      Since Adecco isn’t speaking to us lowly journalists, they’re likely hunkering down until the storm has passed. However, with overall revenues down worldwide in 1Q 2013, they’ve missed the boat on turning this around as a positive push for their global efforts.

      I’m interested to hear how other bloggers would have responded to this situation – that’s a worthy conversation to have! Trademarks can be expensive, especially for bloggers lucky to break $20k a year in gross. Thoughts on that front, as far as alternative strategies?

      Best,

      N

       
      • Kerwin

        Nick,
        Great fact finding.

        In terms of what other bloggers would do given the same situation. I’d first find an intellectual property attorney who knows how to handle such a thing and seek advise from them. I know computers and I know travel, I don’t know the law in this area. So I’d leave it to the lawyers to figure it out.

         
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Also, Christine, I love what you said in your piece. What’s really broken here is the way that copyright is treated in the USA. Laying out thousands of dollars just to preemptively protect your creative output – and then potentially spend more to actually protect it – is just not friendly to entrepreneurs. It creates an unbalanced system that discourages creativity at the lower end of things while diminishing repercussions on the more moneyed side of the equation.

      N

       
      • Jenneil Parks

        I wholeheartedly agree. While the Application cost to TM something isn’t ridiculously expensive, to do it properly and hire an attorney to research, perform due dilligence, etc is. Sure, you can pay the ~$275 and try yourself, but your chances to have the app approved is diminished. This doesn’t even take into consideration the costs to defend the TM.

        One of the posts from an attorney that came up regarding Turner’s situation mentioned that they charge $2,000 for the filing alone. How can we as a society expect bloggers to pay that much? That is what this whole situation boils down to in my opinion.

        As a society, we have stacked the deck against independent bloggers and entrepreneurs and have essentially hung a huge sign saying “Fishing Season is Open” to anyone with big money. Go ahead and swipe anything and everything off the net that is not “protected” by another big Fish.

         
      • Christine Gilbert

        Thanks Nick. I think the case has merit, and the reason so many people were talking about it was because of those broader implications. This wasn’t about Turner Barr, but now I feel like he’s made the mistake of thinking everyone is rally FOR him, when really the rally for FOR intellectual property rights — and the fight against corporate bullying. I would have loved for him to have requested $50,000 to start a legal fund for creatives with trademark issues, for example.

        I thought the way Humans of NY handled their corporate stealing incident earlier this year set a standard of how bloggers can right a wrong, do good and be professional about it.

        Ah well, we’ll see what Adecco does, it’s up to them now. I do hope they apologize and figure out some kind of resolution.

         
        • Nick Vivion

          Nick Vivion

          Very instructive on how quickly DKNY moved to fix their error. Quick, to the point, civil.

          I dig that idea on the legal fund – what a much needed resource that is!

          Best,

          N

           
  7. Peter Parkorr

    Adecco’s handling of the problem has been truly atrocious, regardless if they or Turner are in the right or wrong, so you give great advice when you advise other companies to think about crisis management and indeed outsourcing it to experts. They aren’t just getting their fingers burnt on this one, the internet is rife with the smell of several roasting hides right the way up the chain of command. It appears none of them know enough about social media and even basic PR to react vaguely professionally. Incredible.

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Another important thing is the life of these links are growing greater with every passing day. As more people cross-link this story, there are more pages to be crawled by the search spiders. This story is now a permanent fixture of the Internet.

      The job at mitigating the impact of a crisis begins far before the crisis begins. Whether a straightforward PR crisis or a severe weather emergency, businesses of all sizes must be thoughtfully prepared for any eventuality with significant damage potential. That’s just good business – as is knowing when experts must be brought in to fill in operational deficiencies.

      This is a great discussion for all of us to be having, so there’s definitely a silver lining!

      Best,

      N

       
  8. Roy Marvelous

    Excellent article. Adecco has become a case-study on what not to do in social media. Imagine how much positive press would have been generated, if they had paid Turner $25k to be their brand ambassador at the start of the campaign.

    Now with all the damage done, it’s a paltry sum.

     
    • Amanda

      I could not have said it better myself.

       
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      Roy

      There are ineed many young folks that need inspirational figures, especially entrepreneurs. It’s great to see the blogger community unite around a cause – perhaps there is a project there for some enterprising person, to catalyze some of this knowledge for those seeking to create their own job.

      N

       
  9. TravMonkey

    Online people demand honesty and transparency, Adecco have failed to deliver that. The old business model no longer works with the changes in technology… this is going to be just one of many many cases where traditionally run companies fail to adapt to the ever changing and ever connected consumer.

    They should have come out and explained with transparency why they got it wrong, that is all people want.

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      One of the most painful things for many is the irony that this contest is promoting youth unemployment. Many in the targeted demographic most certainly agree with you on this front.

      Best,

      N

       
  10. santafetraveler

    Great job of investigative reporting, Nick. Though, when Bob Beresh didn’t take the time to secure the domain name he dropped the ball. Turner has spent a lot of time developing this and has a lot invested. If Adecco’s people didn’t do due diligence, they should be fired. REALLY! This is a PR debacle. If they knew about Turner, they should have involved him in the beginning. I don’t think they took blogger power seriously. In this instant information and communication age, they really should have.

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      It is hard to believe that a simple Google search wasn’t performed – especially since they went to the trouble of trademarking the entire project. Of course, one never knows, especially as the layers grow thicker across cultures of a multi-national.

      N

       
    • Jenneil Parks

      I think this is the only part missing in this story. Since they mentioned that Bob Beresh and Ryan Abelman uploaded 1 video on Vimeo, they should also have discussed how they never pursued the Domain, TM, Copyrights, etc and it has been over 20 months. And, as far as I know, consistent use is required legally to be able to stake any claims.

      I am glad they did the research and presented this for historical purposes, but it is misleading to ask these questions “Is the question who’s first? Or is it who executes first? Or perhaps who executes best? Who owns the idea, especially if one’s execution is bested by another’s? The mantra of “Don’t pioneer, perfect,” plays into that attitude – you don’t have to be first, you have to be best.” and not point out the legalities of consistent use, TM’s, Copyrights, Domain Reg, etc.

       
  11. S

    While I think Adecco messed up big time, I also think Turner made a major mis-step in starting that Indie-Go-Go fundraiser. If it were just for legal fees that’s fine, but he’s essentially asking for money for travel and blogging expenses. Really? We’ve all got those expenses to deal with. I was supportive before but to me that just feels like a money grab and a way to take advantage of people’s goodwill.

     
    • Mac

      I have the same concerns. I was going to contribute before even though I am flat broke, but now that he is asking for more than legal fees I can’t justify it.

      I recommend he change the indiegogo to cover only legal fees and then ask for help from the blogging community to upgrade his page (most bloggers are pretty good with web design too). Then, he can approach a hosting company to upgrade to VPS in exchange for some advertising or promotion. Asking for travel costs, money for new gear, etc is very appalling to me and definitely taking advantage of the situation on the backs of travel bloggers.

       
    • Roy Marvelous

      Actually, I was thinking the same thing. Isn’t the point of his travel blog to be gainfully employed while traveling?

       
      • Nick Vivion

        Nick Vivion

        One of Barr’s primary concerns, from where I sit, is the loss of momentum caused by this legal distraction.

        Collectively, people seem to suggest two ways to go: 1) Go for the legal route, and try to set a precedent for bloggers in his situation, or 2) Take the focus currently placed on his project, and use it to get even better access to jobs and continue what he’s doing well – the Adecco contest will fade into the background, and he can be even better.

        A tough situation, no matter how you parse it.

        N

         
      • DJ

        I think in many ways Turner got more publicity than brand damage. Very few people knew who he was outside of the travel blog community; now he’s quite well known. I think the donations are trying to take it a bit too far.,.

         
  12. Michael

    Interesting that he says that integrity is more important than the $25,000 Turner was offered, but not more important than the $50,000 he’s asking for?

     
    • Nick Vivion

      Nick Vivion

      From what I gather, the important thing is that there is also a charity component to the final agreement. There were also 6 weeks of back-and-forth without any offer of compensation, which ultimately changed with the arrival of Barr in New York City. While I was unable to see the actual contract offered, or any emails, Barr claims that the amount offered did not include terms that reflected the work he put into it – and there was no charity component, which is important to him.

      In many ways, money means different things to different people, so I find it hard to take a personal angle on whether it was “enough” or decide if he should have “taken it and walked away.” Especially when it’s tied to something you’ve been working on for 2 years, which is now limited as far as sponsorship categories are concerned (ie. another staffing company is out of the picture).

      This is an unfortunate situation all around, and should be instructive to everyone following. I think we can all learn lessons from each party involved.

      N

       
      • Michael

        I feel the charity angle is excellent, and a great cause too. But i do feel that $50k is a lot to be asking for, regardless who you’re asking for it from.

         
        • Matt Gibson

          I’m pretty sure that a lawyer would ask for more. Intellectual property suits are based on intangible value and unmeasurable future earnings — which can easily be inflated into extremely large numbers.

          If Adecco (and their lawyers) offered $25,000 you can be sure it’s because it was going to save them a substantial amount of money. I’m sure $50,000 is less than they’d pay if properly sued.

           
          • Michael

            Not arguing that they would be saving on what they could have to pay if sued. But the point is how much is Turner going to profit from this? A lot but the look of things, and is that right that he should get so much more than this would have potentially cost him?

             
 
 

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