Thursday, July 17, 2014

Small retail, convenience and food businesses often use the same name; does franchising boom threaten them? My own mischief.

While “on the road” yesterday, I stopped at a little place on US 522, just north of downtown Culpeper, VA, called “Westover Market”.  I mentioned to the clerk that I was from Arlington and often went to the Beer Garden of “The Westover Market” and she said, “but that’s so far away”. 

A couple years ago, an Arlington restaurant called “Lost Dog” tried to claim a trademark on its name (here) at least in West Virginia.  I covered that here in July 2012 and later.  As far as I know, that was dropped.  
What’s apparent, of course, is that across the country, and even across one state (or any large city like NYC or LA) there can be many identically named local retail or food businesses.  It’s common in the bar business (especially the gay bar business).  And it may become increasingly hard for small businesses to do this, in an Internet age where people can post things and move around so quickly. 

Of course, that brings up the whole topic of franchising,  It’s a bit deceptive as a concept:  you own the business, but you have to follow the rules of the trademark owner, who licenses its use.   The fast food and convenience store industries are the biggest to use this idea.  Franchise trademark holders will say that centralizing brand names brings more sales and profits and maybe it sometimes does.  It also represents a loss of personal freedom for the small business owner, often in a small town.

Up to more mischief, I also passed a “National Theater” in downtown Richmond, on Broad St (site),  Any connection to the National Theater in downtown Washington DC?  (Drama blog, Jan. 5. 2012).  I doubt it.    

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