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May 15, 2008

Trademark Infringement - A Naming and Branding Headache for The Bird and The Puck

larry-bird.pngTrademark infringement is an interesting and complex area.

For example, the business geniuses who bought Larry Bird’s old home in southern Indiana and used his (trademarked) name to start a Bed and Breakfast.

Get this, the mastermind behind this Larry Bird inspired getaway calls himself a lawyer. His brilliant defense for shamelessly making money from Bird’s name is: “All I know is they told us certain things when we were considering purchasing the property, and after we bought it they had a different story.” This is right up there with “I honestly didn’t know the speed limit wasn’t 90 MPH, officer.”

Ignorance of the law, is not the greatest strategy when it comes to naming and branding, especially when you are engaging in what is clearly a blatant trademark violation while naming your website “The Legend of French Lick, The Former Home of Larry Bird."

Bird was known as the “Legend of French Lick” as well as the “Hick From St. Lick” and there can be no doubt that this establishment is depending upon its association with the Larry Bird name, and his nickname, to make money. Any competent attorney knows that written permission was needed in this case, a casual verbal promise simply doesn't hold up.

Maybe Wolfgang Puck should call these folks and explain to them why he’s so angry at Wolfgang Zweiner, the chef who just opened up Wolfgang's Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener six and a half blocks from Wolfgang Puck’s own Cut, an incredible well-known LA steakhouse.

cut and puck.png
The Knife blog asks if Wolfgang Puck can really claim to be “basically the essence of Wolfgang-ness” but adds that this is really just an idiotic example of restaurant naming since Wolfgang Puck is such “a beloved Los Angeles landmark.”

But, isn't the real question, is the naming illegal?

The legal tabloid is not sure, not least because Wolfgang Zweiner is a pretty big name in the restaurant scene.

Let’s face it, it is highly unlikely that anyone craving an evening at Puck's famous Cut steakhouse would unknowing wonder into Wolfgang's Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener and ask to buy Wolfgang Puck a drink.

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Posted by William Lozito at May 15, 2008 8:06 AM
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