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.    

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Congress ponders a "TROL" Act that may not accomplish much


Electronic Frontier Foundation is constructively critical of the June 7 draft of a proposed “TROL” Act, to be called “Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters Act”, as it explains in this article, July 11, 2014, by Daniel Nazer.  The article notes that the bill would nullify moderately effective laws in several states, and would not really add any authority that the FTC doesn’t already gave to go after letters in bad faith.  The FTC is said to be investigating MPHj.  The biggest offenders seem to be related to “scan to email technology” and WiFi service in small cafes. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Virginia church trademarks its food pantry drive


Today I visited Columbia Baptist Church, at one of its three congregations, in Falls Church VA, and noticed that the church had registered the name of its food pantry charity with the USPTO.  It is “Spend Yourself.”  Yes, it has an interesting meaning if you think about it.  The link from the Church is here.  You can find the mark on the USPTO database under TESS.  But it’s disturbing to find “common everyday words” used as a trademark.  

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Is the Lohan suit against GTA5 like a trademark suit? (is "right of publicity" like a "brand"?)


I don’t think a lawsuit based on “right of publicity” really involves trademark law as such, but some celebrities to market their names and likenesses as if they were “brands”. 
  
The recent lawsuit by Lindsay Lohan against the owners of the game “Grand Theft Auto V” may fall under the theory that her likeness is a “brand”, although many legal sites say that this action will go nowhere, like here.  I wonder what “the Legal Guys” on CNN would say.