The “No Fee Guarantee” (NFG) may be the most famous, or infamous, trademark in the legal advertising world. And no doubt your interpretation depends on whether you’re an authorized licensee…or not. For those not familiar with the NFG’s history, here’s a quick timeline on how we got to where we are today.
The concept behind the NFG was born in 2007 during a conference call between Arnie and Bill Berg. The idea was to promote the “contingency fee” concept in layman’s terms, without the usual legal rhetoric. They wanted something catchy, memorable, and understandable, or as we like to put it, something “sticky.” The result of that conversation was the beginning of the NFG.
In January 2008, cj worked with Bill to create a campaign marketing the NFG. We knew quickly that the NFG was going to be a distinctive, unique way to communicate the benefits of the otherwise boring, “contingency fee” or “no fee unless we win” kind of language. Within six weeks, we had found marketing success. We quickly started offering the NFG to additional clients. In nearly every scenario where we utilized the NFG the results proved it provided a unique marketing advantage. At the same time, and with this in mind, we applied for federal trademark registration to protect our newest asset.
Unfortunately, the examining attorney at the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) disagreed with our “distinctive and unique” argument. In fact, they viewed it quite differently calling it “merely descriptive” while denying our application. As you can imagine, that didn’t sit too well with us, so we quickly gathered our forces and accepted the challenge. The battle began in 2008 and it was a long, intense back and forth with the USPTO for more than two years. We presented our arguments through numerous tactics, such as:
- affidavits from industry leaders touting the distinctiveness of the mark,
- almost two years of exclusive and continuous use in the media,
- the licensing program with our clients, at that time the more than $3 million dollars spent promoting the NFG through our client’s media schedules,
- the fact that we were the first to use the mark giving us priority of rights in the legal advertising and legal services fields.
Even though it was a frustrating, intense, and lengthy proceeding, fortunately for us, the USPTO finally agreed.
We received federal registration for the NFG on February 2, 2010—and we’ve never looked back. Currently, we have 22 clients utilizing the NFG in more than 40 DMAs. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent promoting the benefits of the NFG to those who are injured, while at the same time positioning our clients as the only law firms offering this unique service. That said, not long after we received registration and word spread of the distinctive marketing advantage of the NFG, copycats and infringers decided to make their presence known. They came in droves, from anywhere and everywhere. Lots of them, but that’s another story yet to come…