In February 2008, then-Herald writer Natalie McNeal challenged herself to not spend a single dollar that month. That spawned her semi-popular Herald blog, the Frugalista Files.
McNeal might be the diva of pinching pennies, but there's one expense she's not scrimping on lately: lawyer fees.
McNeal trademarked frugalista in 2008 and has sent out at least one cease-and-desist order to another blog using a similar moniker.
But some people aren't so sure McNeal can lay claim to the term, even if she did register a trademark. From US News:
Trademarks usually protect terms that are distinctive -- that is, they should be widely associated with the person who holds the trademark. But in the case of "frugalista," it is so widely used that it is hard to imagine how McNeal can argue that the term applies singularly to her, especially considering that she started her blog in 2008, well after the word was popular. The First Amendment, after all, protects the fair use of words, even if one person would like to claim exclusivity. (McNeal seems to have big plans for the word; her trademark application mentions cable television shows and motion pictures. She has not yet responded to my e-mail about the issue, but I hope she does, because I would love to include her perspective.)
McNeal's lawyer clarifies that the word frugalista can still be uttered or written by non-McNeals, but believes McNeal is the only person who can legally identify herself as such.
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