Often it's difficult for small businesses to fight back.

"You need the money and the resources to take on those battles, and a lot of these startups and fledgling entities don't have that," Boyd said.

That was the case with "The Entrepreneurs Edge."

McLean Deloatch, who works part time at a Harford County school library, launched the cable program a decade ago to offer tips and resources information for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

According to Entrepreneur Media's lawsuit filed in July 2012, the company contacted McLean Deloatch several times about the potential for consumers to confuse her show with its business enterprise, but she continued to use the name. McLean Deloatch contends that she never received any cease-and-desist letters.

The lawsuit against McLean Deloatch and her businesses, JMD Entertainment Group and JMD Entertainment and Media Group, says that the Entrepreneur trademark has been used for decades by the publishing company and was first registered in 1987.

Entrepreneur Media Inc. said it is "very concerned that consumers will likely suffer confusion and mistakenly believe that defendants and their services are endorsed by or affiliated with EMI."

The company wanted McLean Deloatch to stop using "The Entrepreneurs Edge" name and to be awarded the domain name, entrepreneursedgetv.com.

"This magazine is supposed to help build entrepreneurs, not destroy them," McLean Deloatch said. "They are bullying us."

The U.S. District Court for Maryland twice gave McLean Deloatch an extension of time to hire an attorney to represent her businesses. But she said intellectual property lawyers often required a hefty retainer — money she didn't have.

"If I had $10,000 lying around, I would have a lawyer," she said.

The case required a lawyer to represent the businesses, and without one, McLean Deloatch missed a deadline to respond to the complaint. In a July decision, the court sided with Entrepreneur Media and ordered McLean Deloatch's businesses to pay $18,126 — their estimated profits over the years — to the media company.

Entrepreneur Media wanted triple damages and its legal fees paid, but the court denied that, saying financial hardship was the reason the defendants couldn't hire a lawyer.

Not everyone agrees with the court's decision.

"It's crazy to me," said Wilson, the law professor. The test, he said, is whether the general public would likely confuse the two enterprises.

"If anyone asked me about entrepreneurs, I would never think of Entrepreneur Magazine," he said.

McLean Deloatch said she's disappointed in the court's decision — and in the American dream that says hard work will be rewarded.

She stopped taping new "Entrepreneurs Edge" programs in May to take a break. She expects to launch a new program soon.

But this one will be called "The Janice McLean Show."

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com