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.

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
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
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
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.