An Open Letter to Albert Martino of Hot Igloo Internet Marketing and Web Design
Hi, I’m Amber. I’m one of the directors of Hot Igloo Productions Ltd: we’re an internet marketing and web design business, which was incorporated in 2004 and has been trading ever since. I’m basically a silent parter (or I have been until now) so you probably won’t recognise my name, but my husband/business partner, Terry Miaoulis, has been in touch with you via email and on Facebook, so you may well know his.
Even if you don’t recognise our names, though, I’m sure you’ll recognise the name of our business: Hot Igloo. Sound familiar at all? It should do, because you launched your own rival business two months ago, using exactly the same name. You’re called Hot Igloo? So are we! You offer web design and SEO services? So do we! Here’s our logo:
And here’s yours:
Do you see the problem here? You’ve essentially duplicated our brand. Two businesses, both using exactly the same name, both using igloos as their logo, both trading in exactly the same industry, and targeting exactly the same customers? That’s going to get confusing for people, don’t you think? You may well argue that you’re based in America, while we’re in the UK, but let’s get real: we’re both running Internet-based businesses and trading online. And now we’re doing it using the same brand.
Albert, you claim to be an Internet marketing and Search Engine Optimization specialist. I assume that means you’re familiar with Google? The search engine? You can type a business name into it, and it will magically provide you with a list of any other businesses using that name? You know it? Good. As a SEO expert who is familiar with the workings of the Internet, then, I’m sure you ran a quick Google search when you were choosing your business name this June. (Did I mention we registered ours in 2004, a full seven years before you?) And when you did, I’m sure you noticed that the very first result for “Hot Igloo” was our company. Our website design and SEO company.
What did you think when you saw that, Albert? Did you think, “Oh, drat! There already IS a web design company called Hot Igloo! What a coincidence! I better come up with another name, instead, one that is truly my own!” Or did you just think, “Whatever, I’m just going to use the name anyway, who cares if there’s another company which has been using that name in the same sector as me, for the past seven years?” Because, from where I’m standing, the latter option seems to be the one you went with.
Albert, this message is currently displayed in giant letters on your homepage:
“We take great pride in delivering fresh and original internet marketing solutions.”
If you GENUINELY take pride in being fresh and original – in fact, if you have any kind of professional pride AT ALL – please reconsider your choice of business name. Please try to put yourself in our position, and imagine how you would feel if, seven years down the line, another website design firm started up using YOUR name. Please, do the right thing. And if you’re not prepared to do the right thing, please at least have the decency to speak to us about this: we are not unreasonable people, but your actions are threatening our business and livelihood, and we have to take that seriously.
Albert, you have completely ignored all of the messages we’ve sent you, including the one Terry left on your Facebook page, so you don’t seem to want to talk to us.
You also deleted the follow-up message Terry posted on Saturday:
Finally, you blocked our Hot Igloo ID from commenting on your page.
Albert, up until yesterday, we were trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that you perhaps hadn’t received any of our messages. But your recent actions tells us that you HAVE received our messages, and are wilfully ignoring/deleting them. This is very disappointing, because we would have much preferred to have tried to resolve this amicably, than to call you out in public. Your refusal to talk to us, however, leaves us with little option but to make this issue public, as we need to make sure that our own clients, and prospective clients, are aware of the fact that there are now two “Hot Igloo web design” companies out there, so they’re not confused. We’re particularly concerned that people might think that any statements YOU make online using our business name have come from US. Our business is seven years old, after all: there are a lot of people out there who will see the name “Hot Igloo” and assume that it is us. This works the other way too, of course: if you really are a professional businessman, I’m sure you will not want your clients being confused in this way either.
In closing, I’d just like to say that you are not the first person to try to copy us, and I don’t expect you’ll be the last. Back in May, in fact, someone copied our shoe blog, Shoeperwoman, in much the same way that you have copied the Hot Igloo brand. We took legal action which resulted in the domain being transferred to us and the site shut down: prior to this, the copycat site was deleted by three separate web hosts (all of whom agreed that it was engaged in something lawyers call “passing off”), and its Twitter and Facebook accounts were closed down by the respective social networks. There is absolutely no difference between what you are doing to us, and what that other “Shoeper-Woman” site tried to do, and we would ask you to please consider what you will do to your reputation by continuing to use someone else’s brand in this way.
Please get in touch to discuss this: you have our details. (If you don’t, feel free to Google “Hot Igloo”. It’s the first result.)
Amber & Terry
Hot Igloo Productions Ltd.
P.S. You’ve been Caughty Doing a McNaughty: welcome to the club!
UPDATE: Monday, August 22nd:
Albert Martino has now deleted all of the comments from his Facebook wall and blocked us from commenting, before changing his page settings to block the entire
UK. world except America. He is obviously prepared to go to great lengths to avoid having to speak to us, which is a shame, because if Albert genuinely believes that he hasn’t done anything wrong, then he should have no reason to fear speaking to us. And if he has nothing to hide, then there should be no reason to block most of the world from his page.
Note to Forever Amber readers: I’m really sorry to once again be publishing something like this here, and I had really hoped I would’t have to write this. Obviously we would have preferred to have been able to resolve this issue privately and amicably but Albert Martino has ignored our emails, deleted our messages from his Facebook page, and blocked us from commenting altogether. I’ve written this post, because although Albert can stop me commenting on his Facebook, he can’t prevent me from talking about this issue elsewhere on the Internet, and he can’t prevent YOU from talking about it either. To be blunt: we will go out of business if people continue to copy us like this – we just cannot hope to continue if all of our time and money is being spent trying to prevent people like Albert Martino from duplicating our brand. As always, we’re grateful for any support our readers can give us.