Google the words Tom Tom, and you’re going to get two very different things on the first page. There’s TomTom, the Dutch makers of a GPS (one of several companies who manufacture GPS systems), and there’s Tom Tom Magazine, the only magazine about female drummers; a smart, queer-positive, feminist and empowering publication and movement.
Since its start in 2009, Tom Tom magazine has rocketed to become a premiere source for women musicians (and their fans), with a terrific online presence, beautiful print issues, collaborative shows, tours, parties, and fundraisers. They’re also incredibly lesbian-friendly, featuring interviews with Hannah Blilie of The Gossip, Patty Schemel and Emma Gaze of Electrelane.
And now the Dutch GPS company wants them to stop.
The bullies over at TomTom GPS are opposing Tom Tom magazine’s trademark, citing that the two could be confused. The terms of their opposition would limit Tom Tom magazine to just that — a magazine, and a website — but gone would be the vibrant community that Tom Tom magazine serves with its workshops, tours, shows and more.
Founding editor (and badass drummer) Mindy Abovitz is not taking this lightly. She’s trying to round up any media attention she can for the issue. “The legal fees to proceed with them are in the thousands of dollars and we cannot afford that,” she explained, calling from Asheville, a stop on the magazine’s southern tour after a successful showcase at SXSW. “We need to give them an answer by April 1 whether or not we are willing to agree to their terms,” she said.
If the whole thing sounds absurd (who would confuse a GPS system and an awesome source for female drummers?), that’s because it is. TomTom GPS is operating out of a sense of greed, with no regard to how different (not to mention important and socially impacting) Abovtiz’s magazine, named for an actual part of a drum kit, is. And you can be sure the guys over at TomTom don’t sound like a feminist bunch, but more like a dude fest: They’ve sponsored various NASCAR vehicles, and you can program their GPS to sound like everyone from Snoop Dogg to Mr. T to KITT from Knight Rider. Plus, they’ve got more than enough funds to make battling a small operation like Tom Tom magazine obsolete: they most recently acquired a GPS company Tele Atlas to the tune of 2.9 billion euros.
Tom Tom magazine, meanwhile, is fighting to stay alive in a publishing climate where music mags like Venus Zine (which had some legal name issues of its own back in the day) go under for financial reasons. Abovitz and company recently had to fund raise on Kickstarter to print and distribute their fourth issue. “We have to keep doing what we do,” Abovitz said. “If we pay for lawyer’s fees for this, there’s no next issue. It would just distract us from the magazine.”
The ordeal began six months ago, when TomTom GPS challenged the magazine, wanting to limit their trademark. Abovitz wrote them a letter stating that Tom Tom was a magazine, with an online presence, and would be hosting festivals, workshops, shows and parties. “We’re about anything having to do with female musicians,” Abovitz explains. “That’s when they attacked.” TomTom GPS responded three months later, escalating their challenge to an opposition of the magazine’s trademark.
“It’s unclear why they’re after us,” Abovitz laments. “It’s ridiculous to think we’re a threat. This whole thing could sink us, not forever, but definitely for awhile. It’s really, really difficult. In comparison, it’s like they’re a multi-story high rise building, and we’re a tent. And this could blow us away.”
Got ideas to help Tom Tom Magazine fight back? Check out their website to get in touch with Abovitz and company, or just to show your support.