Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Getting Sued for Using Your Own Name

Billionaire R. Allen Stanford, who has disappeared just before his businesses were raised by federal authorities, has aroused the ire of Stanford University, which objects to sharing their name with that of what appears to be a huge financial fraud. What is odd about this is that Stanford has sued Stanford on the grounds that Stanford cannot use the name Stanford even though he was born with it. Come again? Specifically, the suit, filed in October of last year, complains of trademark infringement (!) and something else called trade dress infringement. I never heard of the latter, so looked it up. It is complicated:

So if your name is Stanford you’d better not call your business Stanford or you may be hearing from Stanford, Stanford! That is especially true if your business is a blatant fraud. Stanford does not like being associated in the public mind with fraud. Which raises the question of whether there are any businesses out there named Madoff, or – worst of all - Bush, Inc. that might want to sue to protect their names from vile public besmirchment caused by others with those same names..

In another similar case, porn peddler Larry Flynt fired two of his relatives, who were named Flynt and Flynt respectively, and who worked for him in the porn business, and then sued Flynt and Flynt for calling themselves Flynt and Flynt. Anywhere except in the legal world it makes sense for them to call themselves Flynt because that is their legal name. But Larry Flynt complained in his suit that he stands for “quality” (what?) and that competing porn produced by Flynt and Flynt does not have the “quality” (!) associated with Flynt. What is really bugging him is probably that they used their severance pay, which came out of Larry’s pocket, to start their business and try to bring down his business. That is like the junior executive who used the company expense account to buy the controlling interest in his employer and then fire his boss. I have nor read anywhere that the suit has been heard or adjudicated yet, or what the judgement might be. Is it possible any judge thinks Larry Flynt’s products deserve to have their reputation for quality protected? And if so, on what planet might we expect to find such a jurist?

So if your name is John Smith be careful about identifying yourself as such in any business dealing. You might enrage John Smith, and there are a hell of a lot of John Smiths out there.


At February 19, 2009 at 4:58 AM , Blogger Bevie said...

Only in our legal world. And lawyers wonder why we get annoyed with them.

Well, actually, I doubt they do wonder. They don't care.

The sad thing is, our overloaded court system is actually going to try these cases instead of tossing the instigators out on their b*tts.


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