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Defending the Los Defensores Brand

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This year, on our 30th anniversary, we received a great outcome to a legal action we filed to defend our Los Defensores brand.  Los Defensores means The Defenders, and we help defend consumers who have been harmed by car or work accidents or adverse drug effects, by connecting them with attorneys who provide quality legal representation.  For three decades, our marketing has featured our phone number 800-636-3636.

In 2009, my firm filed suit against business owners who purchased the phone number 636-3636 in other area codes.  The couple stated they originally purchased these numbers for their car rental business, but soon discovered that many callers were looking for legal services.  They began selling these requests for legal services to attorneys at a rate of $10,000 to $12,000 a month.

We aggressively litigated this case on the grounds that the numbers 636-3636 are not just generic numbers, but are the “calling card” of Los Defensores.  We provided information demonstrating that this phone number holds meaning for many consumers and represents quality, experienced legal services provided by our attorney network.  We alleged that the defendants were trying to unfairly profit from the significant notoriety we built into our brand, by siphoning off calls that were intended for Los Defensores attorneys.

Recently, the Second Appellate District Court of Los Angeles ruled in favor of Los Defensores in a published decision, awarding nearly $700,000 in damages and permanently prohibiting the defendants from using the 636 numbers in the future.

In Justice Nora Manella’s opinion on the matter, she cited a case where an attorney whose phone number translated alphanumerically to “INJURY-1” did not infringe on another attorney’s trademark “INJURY-9.”  The difference in the Los Defensores case, the judge stated, was that “INJURY’ is a generic phrase used by many attorneys, whereas 636-3636 “has no common descriptive meaning relating to legal services.”  The judge agreed that Los Defensores had the right to prevent the exploitation of the 636 numbers, and prevent the intent to deceive consumers into believing they were calling Los Defensores attorneys.

This victory is important because it validates the trust that potential clients place in the Los Defensores brand and in our attorney network.  The decision also helps us continue to protect our intellectual property and our consumers from deceptive business practices in the future, as it sets precedent for subsequent legal actions.

When it comes to direct response marketing, your 800 number is not only the lifeblood of your business; it also can be the calling card for your brand.

Personally, this great legal outcome is a reminder that everything about our brands, even our phone numbers, is an extension of our brand promise.  This experience has strengthened my passion for civil rights and justice, and my commitment to upholding these qualities in Los Defensores and its sister brand, 1-800-THE-LAW2.

Los Defensores, Inc. v. Gomez 14 S.O.S. 365.  Attorneys for Los Defensores were James P. Maniscalco and Amanda R. Washton of Towle Denison Smith & Maniscalco.