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Gawker Steals Feature: Nothing a ‘Z’ Can’t Handle

About a year ago, Naomi Bulochnikov, a publicist for Current TV’s Bill Press Show, started a website called ThatsNotOkayNY.com with two close friends. The site is legally trademarked and in the process of being formally registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The writers have day jobs. Much to their surprise, it was a passion side gig that took off — they have a scripted project in the works with Grammnet, Kelsey Grammer‘s production company. They registered the name for the TV show and will do the same for the website. That’sNotOkayNY.com launched on Dec. 8, 2010. See the Thrillist writeup.

But about two months ago, Bulochnikov noticed that the behemoth snark site Gawker started an advice column called “Thatz Not Okay.” Gee how original. Swap a “z” for an “s” and there you have possibly avoided a lawsuit and come up with something ingenious: In other words, someone else’s idea.

“Blatant theft bothers me,” Bulochnikov told FishbowlDC, adding that she had spoken with an attorney who explained that if it “creates confusion” and they can prove so, then it infringes on their trademark and they can legally sue. “If they liked the idea so much they should’ve come to us. Just because they’re Gawker doesn’t mean they can run renegade on someone else’s idea.”

Gawker could face legal ramifications…Bulochnikov’s partner in ThatsNotOkay, Zarina Burbacki, a lawyer, explained, “TNO, That’s Not Okay, is a trademark of our company that Gawker misappropriated. They even use the same colors as us which furthers the intent to confuse the consumer as to the ownership of the brand. Our brand was advertised on media outlets, has been in consistent use since December 2010 and the brand has not at any time been forfeited or resigned.”

She continued, “The fact that it was not registered with the USPTO DOES NOT mean that Gawker’s activity is legal. It just means that if we sue them, we have to show that we have been using the brand and that a simple Google search would prove to Gawker that the name is out there used exclusively by a different entity exclusively in the same class that Gawker used it in.”

While Gawker flourishes in its “new” feature, Bulochnikov says she’s getting tons of emails from friends and colleagues asking why she’s letting them get away with it.

Take a look at Bulochnikov’s site. Examples include: asking someone whose six months sober if they miss drinking, and a someone driving a Prius blasting heavy metal. Now take a look a Gawker‘s in which Caity Weaver writes a regular advice column to “school inquiring readers on what is and is not okay.” Examples include: a cab driver who charges to return a passenger’s cell phone left in his cab and whether a cat sitter ought to return T-shirts gifted to her a year ago (who gives a rat’s a$$?) because they’re too large.

Anyone smell a stink bomb here? What’s or What’z actually not okay is a site like Gawker blatantly swiping the idea of a smaller site just because they can. So here’s a ThatzNotOkay question for you Caity Weaver: A big and popular site that just so happens to be named Gawker that just so happens to run a feature by the same name as another site minus a z was created before you. Anything wrong or not okay with that? Sincerely, BurnedAss.

We wrote Weaver for comment. She’s apparently hiding under her pile of ThatzNotOkay fan mail while eating her ThatzNotOkay corn chips otherwise known as Fritos.

Full disclosure: FBDC’s Peter Ogburn is the producer for the Bill Press Show. He has no previous knowledge of this item and wasn’t involved in it in any way whatsoever.

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