Peter Shankman‘s connect journalists with sources service – Help A Reporter Out (HARO) – has become wildly popular over the last two years since it was founded. So popular, in fact, that HARO imitators have been sprouting up.
Shankman’s lawyer, Jerry S. Goldman of Anderson Kill & Olick, P.C. told PRNewser today via email, “my client has no qualms with legitimate competition and welcomes new and original ideas. HARO, like any other company, will protect its valuable intellectual property.”
This news is interesting to us for a few reasons.
1) Shankman is all about transparency, or so it seems. Why wouldn’t he post this news on his blog and frame the story himself? Why just send a cease and desist, and hope this all never bubbles up? It seems like risky PR for a man who is known for his PR savvy.
2) Shankman promoted HARO as the cool, free, upstart alternative to the stodgy, established ProfNet, which is owned by PRNewswire. With this move, HARO now looks like the stodgy, scared company.
3) In January 2008, Shankman received what he called a threatening call from a Profnet rep, and said the company was mad at him for infringing on their turf. Shankman then wrote sarcastically, in defense of how his service would never take business from ProfNet:
Oh, well, now that I get Peter’s group emails once every few days, with maybe one or two requests in it, I’ll just cancel Profnet.
So, if HARO would never have an effect on Profnet, as Shankman claimed, how could HARO now be threatened by a service that only has five total queries on its site.
5) HARO benefits from Shankman’s massive network – at least it especially did at the start. Very few people, if anyone, can match his network of PR people and journalists.
One veteran copyright lawyer we spoke to said, “Shankman can’t stop Waggoner from being in the same business, he can only stop him from either using a confusingly similar name, or mark, or logo, or web page, or domain name that just causes the consumers to think – they intended to go to Shankman’s site and are on Waggoners. They can’t tell the difference.”
“They want this guy to back off, that’s clear. It’s not clear whether he has legitimately violated any rights,” the lawyer said.
We’ve posted screen-shots of both Website’s homepages below so you can compare. More to come…