Feeds

Martha Stewart criticised for swoop on town name

Residents' fears 'unfounded' though

High performance access to file storage

American cooking and home decorating guru Martha Stewart has upset the residents of her newly adopted home town by trade marking the name for her home decorating products. Trade mark law may not extend as far as outraged residents fear, though.

Stewart has moved to the chic town of Katonah in upstate New York where she now lives next door to Ralph Lauren and where her neighbours include Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, and Glenn Close.

Stewart has applied to trade mark the name Katonah for her homeware goods such as paints, lighting and accessories. Residents are protesting and have formed a campaign, Nobody Owns Katonah.

Local business owners fear that they may have to change the name of companies named after Katonah, but trade mark specialist Lee Curtis of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said that their fears may not be well grounded.

"You have a defence in trade mark infringement actions, you can use a geographical term in a descriptive sense, so people from Glastonbury or people from Katonah can say 'I am from Katonah' or 'I have a business in Katonah'," Curtis said.

"If that's the case then they're perfectly free to use the term in a descriptive sense, so no-one who's got a legitimate interest in or trades in those geographical areas will be stopped from using the terms," he said.

Speaking to weekly technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio, Curtis said that fears that Stewart would 'own' the Katonah name for all purposes are also unfounded. He said that since a word or phrase can only be trade marked for a limited set of goods or services, Stewart would have no blanket rights to the name.

It is perfectly legal to trade mark the name of some towns for some purposes, but that right does not extend to all places, said Curtis.

"It depends on the size of the town or city and whether that city or town is well known for the goods for which you're seeking protection," he said. "So for example it's unlikely you could get a registration for the simple word London because various different businesses operate in the London area, it's so big."

"And, for example, Cheddar, you couldn't register that for cheddar cheese, because the Cheddar area is well known for cheese, so it very much depends on the size of the city or area and whether it's well known for the goods or services," he said.

A similar problem arose in Glastonbury last year. Michael Eavis, the farmer behind the Glastonbury music festival, wanted to trade mark the word Glastonbury as it applies to performing arts festivals. Curtis said that Eavis and the town had constructive dialogue and were able to resolve the matter between themselves once everyone understood exactly what the trade mark process involved.

"It's not so much about trade mark law as may about patting down a few ruffled feathers," said Curtis.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.