An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Protect IP: Piroshky Piroshky 

Published: April 23, 2021

Kenneth-Susan

Kenneth D. Suzan Barnes & Thornburg LLP Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA Public Information Committee

Situated within the historic Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, USA, is a nationally renowned small business known as Piroshky Piroshky. Since 1992, this small bakery has sold piroshskies—traditional Russian handheld pies stuffed with a variety of fillings ranging from savory beef and cheese to rhubarb. Each piroshky is individually made from scratch and molded by hand into individual shapes.

According to the company’s website, piroshkybakery.com, the fillings inside piroshkies “are as diverse and differing as the cultures and people who make and serve them. That is the beauty of Piroshky­—everyone makes it a little differently, and recipes are passed down from generation to generation. From babushka to children.”

At the helm of Piroshky Piroshky is Olga Sagan who started as a cashier at the bakery in 2000 and became the bakery’s sole owner in 2017.  Three years later, in 2020, the Small Business Administration deemed her 2020 Washington Small Businessperson of the Year. With dedication, hard work, and leadership, Ms. Sagan expanded the business from one location to three locations and started a mobile food truck.

Throughout the world, there are millions of business owners like Ms. Sagan who have built successful businesses from the ground up. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, “each of the millions of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that operate across the globe every day started with an idea that took shape in someone’s mind and made its way to market.”

Protection of intellectual property (IP) is central to the successful growth of SMEs, and Ms. Sagan was astute enough to consult with corporate counsel who emphasized the importance of protecting her valuable trademarks for Piroshky Piroshky. She applied to register her bakery’s logo and word mark in 2014. The logo stands registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office under U.S. Trademark and Service Mark Registration No. 4849198, and the word mark is registered for merchandise under U.S. Trademark Registration No. 4887671.

 

Protection of IP is central to the successful growth of SMEs.

Fast forward to 2020. When COVID-19 spread throughout the United States and the world, the resulting lockdowns caused major damage to the financial health of SMEs. At Piroshky Piroshky, “sales just dropped and disappeared overnight,” Ms. Sagan said.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for the entrepreneur. She was in the midst of launching a new vegan piroshsky named “Catch 22”—because it contained 22 ingredients. With customers shuttered in their homes, Ms. Sagan knew that online ordering was mission critical to her bakery but struggled with the fact that third-party food delivery platforms were imposing fees on both businesses and consumers for delivery services. There had to be a way for small businesses to keep as much money associated with online ordering as possible without having to engage the services of third-party food delivery platforms, she thought.

To counter these third-party delivery platform fees and encourage consumers to order directly from her business and from other SMEs in the United States, Ms. Sagan launched Catch22Market.com, a “website that connects small businesses to their customers and has zero fees unlike online food-ordering apps.”

Here, too, she recognized protecting IP as a critical step in business grown. Working with counsel, she has filed for federal trademark and service mark protection for CATCH22 in the United States. The application is currently pending at the United States Patent and Trademark Office under Serial No. 90/171,692.

According to the Catch22Market.com website, “Catch 22 does not directly provide delivery or pickup but it acts as an intermediate platform to redirect customers (who wish to order food from small business owners) to their respective websites.”

Ms. Sagan explained, “I had my own website, but no one would ever think about going to my website to place an order so I can keep all the proceeds…everyone would use a third-party platform where fees are charged to both businesses and consumers.”

Catch22Market.com allows businesses to list their web portals for direct ordering without a charge on the website. When they put their store on Catch 22 Market, they are completely in charge of their store, payment processing, and “everything else,” according to Ms. Sagan. This includes working with their own counsel to secure any needed IP protection.

In addition to providing a virtual directory of restaurants offering direct food delivery services, Ms. Sagan is also beta testing multiple modules to help SMEs provide e-commerce platforms if they do not already have direct online ordering options available to their customers. The modules include delivery, store pick-up, food truck, and pop-up sales. There will be fees associated with these e-commerce modules but, Ms. Sagan explained, these tools can help businesses struggling with the technological demands of selling their food to customers online.

 

The bottom line: protecting IP should be a priority for SMEs well before they open their doors to the public.

“My goal was giving power back to business owners…things are changing, and you have to go online,” she said.

Catch22Market.com has expanded to include businesses beyond Seattle, to restaurants in California, Illinois, and Oregon. As of mid-April 2021, there are close to 300 stores in the directory, and three stores are participating in beta testing the e-commerce platform options. For now, the site is limited to restaurants located in the United States, and Ms. Sagan does not have immediate plans for international expansion.

“People love ordering food online. They love it, but they do not love third party platforms. They know they pay almost double, and a lot of the money does not stay in the local economy,” she suggested.

As for her contribution to SMEs, “We are the talent…people want our food, and people are willing to pay us for delivery of that food, directly,” she said. “We need to grow and stay ahead of the curve. We shouldn’t give the pie away.”

The proactive measures that Piroshky Piroshky has taken to secure trademarks for its brand in the United States serve as a reminder to other SMEs about the value of IP protection. This protection will help Piroshky Piroshky differentiate its business within the competitive marketplace and, if needed, can be used to enforce its rights against third parties who may try to adopt the same or similar marks. Should an SME think about franchising, taking steps to register their IP before expansion also is critical.

The bottom line: protecting IP should be a priority for SMEs well before they open their doors to the public.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest. 

© 2021 International Trademark Association