What’s in a Name?

Chris Eckrich
Chris Eckrich

Last week an Associated Press article (Family Battle Brews Over Trademark by Alan Scher Zagier) reported on the legal challenge over the use of a family name in a trademark dispute.  The passion over the use of one’s last name and image is something that many business owning families know very much about.

Family businesses spend inordinate amounts of time and energy building reputations in their businesses.  Quality products and services are part of reputation building, but a family’s reputation as competent professionals and owners with integrity also contribute to perceptions by those in the business and local communities.  The deeper the values run, even if unspoken, the greater the passion that fuels the drive to build and protect reputations.

For younger generation family members, the drives to behave “properly” and bring honor to the family name are often interpreted as over-control by a senior generation consumed with external perceptions rather than behaving authentically.  While this may be happening in a small percentage of cases, overwhelmingly experiences have shown that a deep and powerful family history and story lies at the root of family leaders’ desires to expect (and sometimes demand) behavior appropriate for the family’s name.  Sharing that powerful story among all generations can reveal the deeper meaning behind the family’s high expectations, and create a sense of pride among the family’s younger members.  The family can then unite in protecting their common heritage once the back story gets on the table.  Lacking the back story, the power of the family’s history is diminished and the family is left with interpersonal conflict.

As for the trademark dispute referenced above, we hope the participants find a win-win solution that honors and protects their shared family name.

[Family Battle Brews Over Trademark by Alan Scher Zagier, published March 14, 2014 in The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN, page 10B.]

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