David Bell in the New York Times: ‘Chanel’s Salon’ May Not Have Been the Best Choice for a Name


Like many business owners, Chanel Jones chose to use her first name when she named her business. Ms. Jones — who did not respond to attempts to contact her — probably never expected to face a lawsuit based on that decision, especially not one filed by a huge, multinational corporation...

According to the complaint, Ms. Jones began using the business name “Chanel’s Salon” two years ago. In July 2013, Chanel sent Ms. Jones a cease-and-desist letter requesting that she change her salon’s name so that it did not include the word “Chanel.” The company said it sent four follow-up letters to Ms. Jones but claimed it never received a reply. (Lawyers for Chanel would not comment on the case.) 

To discuss how business owners can handle similar situations, we contacted David Bell, a trademark partner at Haynes and Boone, LLP in Dallas, who has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in trademark litigation. The following conversation has been edited and condensed. 

Q. Should business owners simply forget about using their own name for a business if they share it with an established brand? 

A. Problems can arise where the brand name is well-known and unique and the small business operates in the same or a similar industry, as is the case here. To win a case, the well-known brand must show that the small business’s use of its name could “reasonably” cause confusion or tarnish its reputation.

Excerpted from the New York Times, October 8, 2014. To view full article, click here.


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