Death and Taxes
Russell Robertson, CFP®
As yet another tax deadline looms (April 18th this year!), we are reminded of that old saying about nothing being certain in this life except for death and taxes. It is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin (because he wrote it in a letter), but Daniel Defoe actually wrote something to the same effect about 60 years earlier.
Willem Dafoe. Great actor. No relation to Daniel Defoe.
Despite what you may think, however, this will not be a letter about taxes. Other than to say “do them”, and we’re happy to help in any way we can. Also, Arby’s is giving out free curly fries on tax day this year, or so we hear. Possibly McDonald’s as well, though they won’t be curly.
No. This is, instead, a letter about death (Pincher Martin-style, not Robinson Crusoe-style, to work that Daniel Defoe reference in there). Specifically, the death of Alidade Wealth Partners. It has been a wonderful journey with all of you these last 9 months, but apparently our collective plans for world domination have ruffled some feathers up in Michigan, and the threat of the full weight of the United States Patent and Trademark Office was brought to bear on your humble author recently.
So. Alidade Wealth Partners is dead. Long live ATI Wealth Partners!!
Over the coming months, expect to see a couple changes as a result of this phoenix-like rebirth...the email address we’ll use to send these newsletters out, the company name on your statements, the website (now www.atiwealthpartners.com), etc. Nothing will be changing about us or your money or how we manage it. Just a name change.
But for now, without further ado, and perhaps to alleviate a little of the tax season pressure, we present the Death of Alidade Wealth Partners, in two acts:
Re: Infringement of Federally Registered Alidade Capital Trademark
Dear Mr. Robertson:
[Generic Law Firm Name] represents Alidade Capital, LLC ("Alidade") in intellectual property matters.
As a result of Alidade's extensive use and promotion of its Alidade brand in connection with its investment services, Alidade has developed exclusive rights in its highly distincitive Alidade Capital name and mark. Alidade owns US trademark registration numbers 3,903,103, and 3,906,739 for the ALidade Capital mark. Alidade considers the Alidade name and trademark to be among its most valuable assets, and ALidade has invested significant time and money establishing the goodwill embodied in its trademarks.
Recently, we have been made aware that you are using the name "Alidade Wealth Partners", and the corporate name Alidade Wealth Partners, LLC" in Georgia and on the internet through www.alidadewealth.com, as well as registering as an investment advisor with the SEC, which is closely related to Alidade's commercial activities, e.g., Alidade is also registered as an investment advisor with the SEC. Due to the nearly identical nature of the marks, the related nature of the commercial activities, and your use of the Alidade name in the United States in close proximity to Alidade's online presence and registration at the SEC, your use is likely to lead to confusion in the marketplace. In addition, consumers are likely to mistakenly believe that your business, and that of our client Alidade, are connected or affiliated in some way.
This letter is being sent to request that you immediately refrain from any further use of the mark "Alidade Wealth" any marks that include "Alidade" and any other terms that are confusingly similar to Alidade's marks. Your use of "Alidade" and "Alidade Wealth" to identify your business unfairly trespasses on the goodwill and reputation embodied in the Alidade marks and violates the exclusive rights afforded by Alidade's federal registrations. Your actions are likely to cause and continue to cause confusion among potential customers who mistakenly believe that your use of "Alidade" and "Alidade Wealth" is somehow authorized, affiliated with, connected with, or sponsored by Alidade. It is therefore likely that such confusion and mistake will continue to occur, and possibly increase over time, unless your business ceases its use of "Alidade."
Your company's behavior in using "Alidade" in conflict with our client's registered rights is unauthorized and very likely constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition under Section 32(1) of the Lanham Act, 15 USC Section 1114(1). Remedies for such an infringement include injunctive relief and damages.
Accordingly, Alidade demands that Alidade Wealth, LLC, doing business as Alidade Wealth and any entity or persons affiliated with your company (i) immediately and permanently cease all current and future use of the "Alidade" "Alidade Wealth" or any confusingly similar term in any manner; (ii) immediately destroy product packaging, catalogs, and any other printed materials bearing the words "Alidade" (iii) take any and all actions necessary to remove the "Alidade" name from any telephone directories, yellow pages, Facebook, Twitter, or any other similar business listings whether in print or on-line, (iv) amend your articles of organization to change your name so that it does not include Alidade, and (v) update your investment advisor registration with the SEC to reflect your new name.
We ask that within fourteen (14) days of this letter that Alidade Wealth, LLC provide written assurances that these steps will be taken. Failure to undertake these remedial actions may result in Alidade considering its legal options to assert its rights to recover all damages and attorney fees and protect the goodwill embodied in its trademarks. We are confident that with your immediate attention to this matter, it can be resolved in an amicable fashion. We look forward to your prompt response.
[Generic Law Firm]
Re: Denial of Alleged Trademark Infringement
Dear [Generic Lawyer]:
This letter is in response to your Cease & Desist letter dated February 1 (“letter”) sent on behalf of Alidade Capital, LLC.
Alidade Wealth Partners, LLC (“Alidade Wealth Partners”) denies the allegations set forth in your letter that our use of the mark “Alidade” or “Alidade Wealth” unfairly trespasses on the goodwill and reputation of Alidade Capital, LLC (“Alidade Capital”) and causes or will cause confusion among current and potential customers.
It is our belief that there is a clear difference in trade channels between Alidade Wealth Partners and Alidade Capital. Despite allegations in your letter, Alidade Wealth Partners is not registered as an investment advisor with the SEC, as a cursory search should have showed you. Alidade Wealth Partners is registered with the State of Georgia and has notice filed with the State of Texas. Alidade Capital, on the other hand, is an SEC-registered investment advisor, but has only notice filed with the State of Michigan, not the State of Texas or the State of Georgia. Given that notice filing is required with any state in which a company has an office or a minimum number of clients (the minimum in Texas is one (1)), and given further that Alidade Capital reported “1-10 clients” on its most recent annual update on Form ADV, it can be presumed that Alidade Capital has very limited presence outside of its home state of Michigan, and the chance of market overlap between Alidade Capital and Alidade Wealth Partners is exceedingly small.
Furthermore, the nature of the goods and services provided by Alidade Capital and Alidade Wealth Partners is different enough to not warrant allegations of marketplace confusion. The goods and services related to the “Alidade Capital” mark are listed as: private equity fund investment services, namely, real estate investment and brokerage services, real estate fund investment services (via www.tmsearch.uspto.gov - US Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Electronic Search System). Alidade Wealth Partners does not engage in real estate services.
Alidade Wealth Partners provides individual financial planning and portfolio management. Fully 100% of our clients and 100% of assets under management are attributable to “individuals” and “high net worth individuals”. We specifically do not have as clients or as assets under management “Pooled investment vehicles”. Alidade Capital, on the other hand, lists 100% of clients and 100% of assets under management as attributable to “Pooled investment vehicles”. They specifically do not have as clients or as assets under management “individuals” or “high net worth individuals” (source: www.adviserinfo.sec.gov). Alidade Capital lists as its advisory activities “portfolio management for pooled investment vehicles” while specifically not checking the boxes for “financial planning” or “portfolio management for individuals and/or small businesses”. Take a wild guess which boxes you’ll see checked (or, conversely, specifically not checked) under the advisory activities of Alidade Wealth Partners.
As for the allegations of confusion in the marketplace...personally, I grew up not far from Michigan and have the utmost respect for people from the Midwest. The idea that the people of Michigan would somehow confuse an individual financial planner in Georgia with the private equity real estate company in their home state is rather ludicrous. I do hope your clients do not make those opinions about Michiganders’ ability to understand who it is they are dealing with known when talking with potential customers.
Having presented this argument, however, what is important to us is the relationships we have with our clients and the services we provide for them. Whether they call us “Alidade Wealth”, “Not Alidade Capital Wealth Partners”, or just “hey you” is meaningless. The goodwill and reputation we have built up is embodied in those relationships rather than in the name of our company.
As such, we agree to comply with your demands as much as they can be complied with.
We will (i) cease use of the “Alidade” and “Alidade Wealth” marks; (ii) destroy printed materials bearing the words “Alidade” insofar as we created them or they relate to our firm; given that “alidade” is an actual word in the English language, we will not go around wantonly destroying anything we see with that word printed on it; (iii) remove the “Alidade” name from any telephone directories, yellow pages, social media, or similar print or online listings; again, only as pertains to our company and not any other company with the mark “Alidade” (e.g. Alidade Solutions, Alidade Consultants, Alidade Technologies, etc.); (iv) amend our articles of organization to change our name so that it does not include Alidade and; (v) we cannot update our investment advisor registration with the SEC because, as mentioned previously, we are not registered with the SEC. But we will update it with the State of Georgia and the State of Texas.
Due to the not insignificant time and cost burden associated with complying with your demands, all stated changes will be completed within a period of three (3) months ending June 1, 2017.
It was not missed by us that in addition to the “Alidade Capital” trademarks, you also filed for just the single word “Alidade” on behalf of your clients under a much broader listing of goods and services provided. I wish your clients the best of success in their endeavor to commandeer the definition of an extant English language word. Much like “Googling” can now be used in lieu of “searching”, perhaps one day we will all be “Alidading” our money.
So. Get those taxes done in the next three weeks, and if you have any questions or want to see about maybe saving some more money come this time next year, we'd love to speak with you.
As for us, well, it's business as usual...just with a new name. So tonight we'll be doing the same thing we do every night: try to (help you) take over the world.
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