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No Sweat Apparel and the Wrong Way To Do Business

I got a pesky telephone call from CafePress today. It wasn’t that CafePress was being pesky, really. Rather, they were relaying a pesky message from someone else: Robert Hoffman of No Sweat Apparel.

It seems that Robert Hoffman was complaining to CafePress because we sell sweatshop free shirts in a store that has section titles that include the phrase no sweat. Robert Hoffman called CafePress to get them to call us in order to ask us to change the titles of those sections so that the phrase no sweat wouldn’t be used any more.

It didn’t work, at least not the way that Robert Hoffman intended. The people at CafePress did the right thing, and they told us that they didn’t think that the demands of Robert Hoffman and No Sweat Apparel had sufficient merit. CafePress noted that neither Robert Hoffman nor No Sweat Apparel actually own the trademark on the phrase no sweat. Someone else does.

So there No Sweat Apparel and Robert Hoffman are, possibly violating someone else’s trademark by using the trademarked phrase in their brand name, and now they’re trying to force us not to use the phrase in a section title of a CafePress shop? The polite phrase for that is chutzpah. I’m sure that you can think of some not-so-polite terms that would more aptly describe the maneuver.

Although CafePress said that they’d back us up, I told CafePress not to sweat it ;). I’m not in a confrontational mood today. Our business doesn’t depend upon us using a very common certain phrase, and trying to prohibit other people from using it. So, I told CafePress that I’d change the section titles so that they read “no sweatshop” instead of “no sweat”. Looking at the shop, it seems I’m going to have to re-edit some graphics in Photoshop, making the process more troublesome than I had imagined, but it’s not going to change the nature of our shop, given that we’ve never marketed with an emphasis on the phrase no sweat in particular.

I’m not going to bother getting into a legal fight with Robert Hoffman and No Sweat Apparel. I don’t want to go through the nonsense of having their lawyers call my lawyers. Selling shirts that are made in sweatshop-free conditions is more important to us here at Irregular Times than trying to grab all the business of people who are interested in ethically-made apparel. I wish it were the same for Robert Hoffman and No Sweat Apparel, but maybe their culture has gone too corporate, what with their Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Vice President and Director of Retailer Sales, and so forth, for them to regard theses matters casually.

However, I’m not going to agree to No Sweat Apparel’s legal claims, and I’m not going to let this bullying pass by without notice. The reason: We here at Irregular Times have shown No Sweat Apparel a great deal of goodwill in the past. We have written not just one, not two, but three separate articles praising No Sweat Apparel’s work in selling clothes made without sweatshop labor. Those articles have included links to No Sweat Apparel, helping them rise up in the rankings of Google and other search engines.

You’d think that, with our history of giving good press to No Sweat Apparel, that Robert Hoffman would have had the decency to send us an email, or give us a phone call, trying to work out a mutually beneficial arrangement in a well-mannered way. That would have been the reasonable way to do business. After all, Irregular Times and No Sweat Apparel should be working together in common cause.

That’s not how Robert Hoffman does business, I guess. It seems he’d rather treat us like competition instead of like an ally. That’s really sad. He missed an opportunity to get some more good press for No Sweat Apparel from us.

I’m not going to try to show ill will toward No Sweat Apparel. I don’t want to try to punish them for their antagonistic attitude. I’m not going to take down the links to No Sweat Apparel from those articles. If readers want to go and find No Sweat Apparel brand items, fine.

On the other hand, Robert Hoffman has lost my goodwill. So, I don’t see why Irregular Times ought to be giving its considerable Google mojo to No Sweat Apparel. As a middle ground between antagonism and rolling over like a puppy dog, I’m placing the nofollow tag in those links, which means that search engine software won’t credit those links toward No Sweat Apparel’s rankings.

Mr. Hoffman, it’s not too late for you to make this right. Give me a phone call. Write me an email. Drop a comment here to get in touch. People working to promote clothing made without sweatshop labor shouldn’t be treating eachother as enemies. We can still work together for mutual benefit, and for the benefit of the cause, if you’ll just contact us personally when you have a problem with something we’re doing.

That’s not just simple good manners. It’s good business sense too.

1 comment to No Sweat Apparel and the Wrong Way To Do Business

  • Scuttlebutt

    You couldn’t have nailed it better; people in this “movement” should be working together – not creating a divisive and unproductive environment. I certainly won’t be buying anything from No Sweat until they turn themselves around and refocus on their stated “mission” rather than acting like Mr. Hoffman did or being less than honest when it comes to ensuring how democratic the union in Jakarta, Indonesia (where their sneakers are manufactured) is.

    Also interesting is that they used to list who actually owns the “No Sweat” trademark on their “Who We Are” web page… now she is no longer listed. I wonder why…
    Thanks for reporting this.

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