Is Sal Cincotta Right About His Stink With Miller's Lab

Is Sal Cincotta Right About His Stink With Miller's Lab

Wedding photographer Sal Cincotta voiced his opinion on Facebook today about Miller Lab's launching a new line of albums using the word "Signature" in the title. Apparently Cincotta has a wedding album line that goes by a similar name, Signature Collection Albums, and he feels that there will now be "confusion in the market place." Read below what Cincotta posted on his Facebook page and voice your own opinion in the comments. Do you think Miller's was out to copy Cincotta or is "Signature" a generic enough word anyone should be able to use it. 

Since his post on Facebook Cincotta has garnered a lot of support from his followers. However some have voiced some interesting points as well. Jay Gough mentioned in one comment that a quick search on Google highlighted at least 8 other companies on the front page that also use the word signature in their album marketing.

Here is the post Cincotta made on his Facebook page today....

Questionable behavior by Miller’s Lab or good business?

"Need your help. Questionable behavior by Miller’s Lab or good business? As many of you know, about a year and a half ago we started a company called Signature Collection Albums – – the goal was to provide a higher level of albums for our wedding clients and photographers wanting to separate themselves from the pack with high quality books. Imagine my surprise when I picked up a recent issue of Professional Photographer and Rangefinder and they chose to run ads (6 pages mind you) featuring Miller’s “new” album line called “Signature Albums”.

"Now, you tell me. Much ado about nothing? Or should I be concerned? My concern is it creates confusion in the market place. For anyone who knows our brand, it implies that we are possibly endorsing this product, which is obviously not the case. Every time I get up and speak about these albums will there be confusion as to what I am referring to? And worst of all, it wreaks of a multi-million dollar company stealing an idea/concept with little to no regard for the smaller company because, quite frankly, a law suit would cost us near 6-figures to defend! "

"Is it possible that the marketing team over at Miller’s was unaware of our branding? Possibly. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and go to google shall we? Google “Signature Albums”. Weird. Signature Collection Albums, our company, comes back #1. Maybe they missed that. Is it possible that they were unaware of our advertising? I guess the fact that we advertise in print magazines like Rangefinder or even Shutter Magazine could have been missed. Maybe they missed the fact that we advertise or have booths at the WPPI and Imaging USA tradeshows. Or missed that we speak on shows like Creative Live to an audience of 30-50k people? "

"I guess it’s possible they just missed all these things and I am just making something out of nothing. Or, is the obvious answer smacking me in the face? So, we reached out to Miller’s Lab, hoping they would see the mistake, acknowledge it, and address it immediately. Surprise. Ding ding ding. The obvious answer wins. Miller’s sees nothing wrong and will continue this campaign until we force them via legal action to stop. WOW. Can you imagine if in your local market, after spending tens of thousands marketing and branding your business – lets call it “happy moments wedding photography”, someone came up with a similar product or service, took your business name, minus one word, and started a monster ad campaign offering “happy moments photography” by bill in your local market? This would and could be devastating to your brand! It would create mass confusion with your client base."

"So, I ask you. Much ado about nothing? Or bad business by Miller’s Lab? Come on Miller’s – be the unique and innovative company you position yourself to be. Unless your marketing team has been living under a rock for the past year and a half, there is no way they missed it. Not caring is not good a business practice. Am I off base being concerned about this? Tell me your thoughts?"

Is the word signature generic enough that everyone should be able to use it or does Cincotta make a valid point?  

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Rick Weaver's picture

Well I think the discussion by Sal is pretty much moot since his TM application is still pending.  He has no legal standing to ask them ANYTHING.

ThunderKing's picture

and he filed it well after the announcement by Miller's to bring out the Signature Album line.

Coming from the guy who used a tagline for a major album company and wasn't exactly swift with it's removal when confronted by said album company. It comes across as very hypocritical...The google search was easy. I don't get the position. He could potentially trademark the EXACT phrase "Signature Collection Album" but Miller's used "Signature Album" so why the outcry?

Kim Hill's picture

Hmmm, I think that since it is not identical then it would be okay. The term "signature" is pretty generic and probably used in far more places than the first 8 that popped up in Google.  I'm pretty sure I've seen other photographers use the term Signature Collection or Signature Package - seems pretty generic to me. I also have to wonder if you would need to trademark the complete name in order to have a legal argument here.  Personally, I don't think it's that big of a deal to have both companies with their respective "signature" names.  The clients that use Millers are not the same clients who go to Mr. Cincotta.  So I doubt there would be much consumer confusion.

FrankHerzog's picture

If a photographer doesn't copyright their images, and they get stolen, shame on the photographer. If a business owner doesn't trademark a product and it gets stolen...

Why wasn't the product trademarked?

Michael Turcotte's picture

He has to prove that there will be confusion on the part of the consumer (if he gets the TM). His customers are not Miller's customers. 

Jaron Schneider's picture

I totally see his point, but Signature is a really washed out word. Far from unique, but I'm not condoning the behavior of Miller's either.

Veldask Krofkomanov's picture

Bro, how is their behavior wrong? There's nothing wrong with a company not checking every single competitor to make sure they don't have a similar product with a similar name, especially one as commonly used as that one is in today's marketplace (not only photography, but in general).

He copyrighted "The Signature Collection by Salvatore Cincotta" thats completely different then "Signature Albums by Millers". Not to mention the terminology is so vague with "Signature Albums" it would never hold up in court.  Nor would he ever be granted a trademark with "Signature Albums", ive had a few rejections from the patent office because of terminology that was too vague (Its like me trying to sue someone because they have the words "Photography" or "Media" in their name which is also in my copyright that I filed). Sal thinks it would be a 6 figure lawsuit, and it might be, but out of that lawsuit would come a big fat nothing and a large attorney fee.

Michael Turcotte's picture

Not copyright, you can't copyright titles or words. He is trying for a trademark. Completely different. Trademarks are marks used by tradesmen to verify the goods are theirs so people know what they are getting. Similar sounding and looking marks  have been found to possible cause confusion in the consumer as to the origin if the product. IANAL but I have had to present things to corporate lawyers - you really need to know the difference in order to get projects approved..

It seems everyone has a "signature" line or collection of something...Golf clubs, golf balls,  ties, shirts, etc...and there are more than one company producing each of those products, yet they have "signature" collections or lines...and market them that way.

I think Sal is wrong. I think it is silly to think that the word "signature" can be considered exclusive to only your brand. And as far as money spent on advertising and marketing, well someone should have been thinking  ahead....Next will be Silver, Platinum or Gold cannot use those either....

Sorry, I do not see it...being at the top of the list on search engines does not make you the best, it just means you probably spent way to much money to a company to get you on top of that list...
Sal's great I am not saying that, but him saying he was on the top of all those lists does not mean his use of Signature got him there...I am sure a company paid to promote the business and manipulate the search engines got him there with the word could have easily have been any other words they chose to use...Apple Butter Collection Albums...better get that before someone else does....

Pete Sutton's picture

Very frustrating to put, time money, and effort into creating your brand and have another company come out with a similarly named product. I do sympathize with Sal. He is an extremely talented photographer and businessman. "Signature" line is a commonly used "brand" name. I honestly don't think Miller intentionally copied Sal. I think they used a time proven name that happens to match. Sal is a strategic thinker and I know he will find a way to distinguish himself. In fact I think he already has.

Mike Sweeney's picture

Simply put, he's wrong. He needs to get his panties out the bunch they are in and put this effort back into his biz.. like he tells us to do :)

Bert McLendon's picture

I can see his frustration, but I don't think he can do anything legally.  Maybe he can, I don't know but I just doubt it.  All I can say is just make yours kick so much ass that it makes them look like the copy cats and lazy marketing department they are.  If I were Millers I'd be pissed that I'm paying a marketing department that ripped off another similar sounding line.  It's like the guys at Reebox paying their marketing department to come up with something awesome and they come up with Reebox Rox (like Nike Shox)... I'd replace the entire marketing department for being lazy turds.  =)

cojophoto's picture

Sounds like a baby. If he's so confident in his stuff I dont think he should have anything to worry about.

Michael Turcotte's picture

"Dilute" his brand? Until he was on creativeLIVE, I never heard of him. I have heard of Miller's a long time ago. He is starting to believe his own PR.

Starry Dynamo's picture

Agree. I'd never heard of him either.

Michael Novo's picture

Sal is relatively new to the scene.  He's been a speaker at WPPI and toured a few times.  He more or less came out of nowhere as of about the last few years.

Joe John McDonald's picture

Don't forget that Sal is a marketing and sales genius.
A little "Campfire Controversy" can be good for the soul.


ValentinoAntonio's picture

If "signature albums" is to convey to the potential consumer that it is your best album, and not a name title, then it would be too generic a term that way to be governed and protected under some appeal to infringement or base for confusion. . . .

Take a look at the baseball card market: a few companies use the term "signature series" baseball etc., or some form of title where 'signature' is prominent. There are many companies right now that use the term "signature" . . . unless the actual album design is borrowed, then there cannot be any appeal on the basis of the use the term "signature" somehow infringing on another company that proclaims ownership of the actual term to describe a product.

The actual term signature is widely used to define a special product, and therefore is already widely used in the marketplace for such reason.

Both companies can use the term "signature" to describe an album and how it differs from other albums that same company offers. It's the "signature series" or "collection," and you can find it in the fashion industry all the way to the cutlery markets and to candies for Pete's sake. . . .

Subrata Guhamajumdar's picture

Miller's Lab did nothing wrong!!! Did you hear the phrase "Signature Portrait" before? In my opinion, the word "Signature" is very generic word. You are counting on google search? Oh, well, that depends on how good your SEO is. You are just trying to get some attention to improve your SEO rating as this article links to your website. Waste of time!!!

Nigel Walker's picture

How creative is it to call something 'Signature...'? I buy signature stuff all the time at Tesco's not Harrods.

Thomas Lawn's picture

Those names are different enough. From where I stand, he can go ahead and sue Millers', but then Kirkland will sue them both because CostCo rules.

Lee Christiansen's picture

Well...  I call some of the products I produce "albums" and I think there would be much confusion with Sal's product range.

I insist he calls them something else like "bonded foldy image collections" (as the term book has already been taken by someone I'm sure...)

Heck... to expect no one call call their product a name with signature in the title is ridiculous.   If he wanted to have a trademarked name then he should have put a bit more effort into his creative thoughts first.

Roman Kazmierczak's picture

Well, I don't like his shady business practices anyway. His business model he was teaching on CL is all based on tricks and manipulation. Like these guys in the mall who sold some cheap peace of plastic for hair to my girlfriend for $30 ;)
Well, sometimes karma bite you back.

Michael Kormos's picture

I think if Sal really wanted to distinguish his brand of albums from the rest of the marketplace, he should've chosen a less generic term than "Signature..."

J's picture

Who is Sal Cincotta? 
One look at his web site shows average images at best and text that is so SEO orientated it's embarrasing. 
This is just a ploy to seek more traffic/attention

Massimo Pizzochero's picture

Maybe just a little more creativity in chosing the name of his company could have avoided the controversy...

My friend and fellow photographer created the SaberStrip light modifier.  He got the name Trademarked before he released the product to the public.  Obviously the first thing people think of is the Star Wars Light Saber when they first see it so it was something that was of a big concern before the product was officially put out there.  Imagine getting a cease and desist from Lucas and his team of lawyers!! .. If Sal (or anyone) wants to create a brand they need to go through the proper legal steps before its put out there.  If he has not done this yet (from what some of the posters above are saying) then he only has himself to blame.

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