Kristyn Heath, CEO of Passive Devices and BLACK ENTERPRISE’s 2008 Teenpreneur of the Year, is in a David vs. Goliath battle as she fights rapper Snoop Dogg’s accusation that her invention SnoopTunes infringes on his trademark.
At the age of 14, Heath developed NoeStringAttached, a device that uses a branded technology called SnoopTunes to assist iPod users who want to share music lawfully while within the vicinity of other iPod users. The concept is based on the idea that users can “snoop” in on peers’ music. Heath also plans to develop technology to share other multimedia as well.
One year after Heath began the process to trademark SnoopTunes, lawyers representing the rapper, actor, and entrepreneur born Calvin Broadus filed a suit against the teen and her company in an effort to stop the proceedings. “I don’t see what he has to gain from it,” says Kristyn, now 18, adding that her technology has nothing to do with his music.
“Snoop Dogg says we are leveraging off of his fame,” says Allen Heath, Kristyn’s father, noting that Snoop Dogg’s name and persona was developed around a trademarked Peanuts comic character. “Our success came because Kristyn invented a unique product.” According to the elder Heath, Broadus’s team of lawyers agreed to allow them to use the term “snooping” instead but the lawyers changed their minds days after that agreement. “We made that offer only because we knew the history of trademark disputes with Snoop Dogg. When he comes after you, most people cannot handle the onslaught of the legal process. It is pretty intense.”
The company’s 2007 revenues were $30,000, and revenues for 2008 were expected to reach $100,000. Those projections were based on Passive Devices releasing the product on time, but now the company is behind in releasing a new proprietary device.
“We’ve spent way more than what a start-up should have to spend in legal fees, says Allen Heath. “It is not something we planned for. We’ve had to divert funds from development to continue the battle.”
As the Heath’s prepare to go to trial over the trademark, they see the learning experience as an opportunity to teach other teen entrepreneurs how big companies can operate against small ones.
Snoop Dogg’s attorneys have not responded to requests for a comment.