Entrepreneur Media Inc., publisher of the monthly Entrepreneur Magazine, has threatened to sue Santa Barbara startup blog SBEntrepreneur.com over alleged trademark infringement.

Entrepreneur Media sent SBEntrepreneur.com founder Matthew Burgess cease-and-desist letters saying that EMI had trademarked “entrepreneur” years ago.

“I am surprised,” Burgess said. “I think it’s very aggressive, and it shows a level of disrespect for entrepreneurs who they hold out as the reason they do what they do. Their stated mission is supporting what (entrepreneurs) do.”

EMI’s lawyers sent letters to Burgess’ business Formation Solutions, a professional services firm that helps clients create a new corporation or LLC, threatening legal action for the use of the domains SBEntrepreneur.com and VeniceEntrepreneur.com.

“Your use of marks that are nearly identical to Entrepreneur Media’s ENTREPRENEUR® mark in connection with goods and/or services that are nearly identical to Entrepreneur Media’s goods and services is likely to cause confusion, mistake and/or deception regarding the source of your services,” the letter states. “Furthermore, your unauthorized registration and use of a domain name encompassing Entrepreneur Media’s famous trademark and trade name violates the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. … Accordingly, Entrepreneur Media hereby demands that you immediately cease and desist from any further use of the ENTREPRENEUR® mark or any other mark confusingly similar thereto, and that you transfer the SBEntrepreneur.com and VeniceEntrepreneur.com domain names to Entrepreneur Media in accordance with the policies and procedures of the Registrar.”

The law is designed to prevent consumer confusion, protect electronic commerce and “owners of trademarks substantial revenues and consumer goodwill,” according to the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

But Burgess questions the “goods and services” that SBEntrepreneur.com offers, which he intends to be a public service recognizing the hard work of local businesses. He maintains that his blog doesn’t interfere with consumers making well-informed decisions.

“As a business owner, I understand why it’s important to defend intellectual property,” Burgess said, “but I have been looking around at other media published, and it seems they are taking it a little too far.”

EMI did not respond to Noozhawk’s requests for comment.

The company has challenged startups such as EntrepreneurOlogy.com, Entrepreneur.com and SeattleEntrepreneur.com.

“It looks to me they send cease-and-desist letters sometimes against entities that don’t have the resources to defend themselves,” Burgess said. “Other larger companies that use entrepreneur in similar fashions haven’t been challenged and you have to ask why.”

Burgess said he has included disclaimers on both of his blogs that indicate they have nothing to do with EMI.

“We note that FSI has placed a small disclaimer on the websites containing the SBEntrepreneur and VeniceEntrepreneur marks; however, this measure is insufficient to prevent confusion given the high degree of similarity between the SBEntrepreneur and VeniceEntrepreneur marks, and Entrepreneur Media Inc. (“Entrepreneur Media”)’s Entrepreneur mark,” EMI wrote in response. “FSI’s continued unauthorized use is likely to confuse the public into believing that its websites and social media pages are operated by Entrepreneur Media, or that there is a license, affiliation or sponsorship between FSI and Entrepreneur Media.”

Burgess said he believes EMI’s threats will only do harm to its reputation and brand. 

“I think anytime anyone discusses what’s happened publicly, I feel that it does harm their public image,” he said. “You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks that that word is something they can own.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at akacik@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.