Wawa Versus Dawa: Trademark Dispute Blamed On A Need To Police That Doesn't Exist
from the wawa? dept
We've made the point before. In the pantheon of trademark disputes, the most commonly trotted out excuse for overt protectionism is nothing but a headfake. While companies often proclaim their bullying actions are a requirement under trademark law's provision for active policing of infringement, the fact is that this requirement does not mandate that companies roadblock any and all similar uses to their marks. Instead, the idea is that trademark holders cannot allow actual infringements to go unchallenged.
For an example of the difference, we can point to the current dispute between two companies in the food mart business, Dawa Food Mart and Wawa Inc. The former is a single store in New Jersey that has operated for two years now. The latter is a mid-sized chain that only recently decided that Dawa infringed on its trademarks.
According to The Courier-Post, Wawa has filed a federal trademark infringement lawsuit against Dawa Food Mart, located at 15 Lafayette Street in Paterson, Passaic County.
The Korean owner of Dawa Food Mart, identified only as Han in the report, explained to the Courier-Post that "Dawa" means "welcome" in his native language. The shop has been open for about two years now.
It's worth noting that Wawa has a long history of policing its trademark to near feverish degrees, having filed suit against tour and gaming companies that use the term "wawa" in their names. At least Dawa Food Mart is more in the marketplace ballpark, though even then we're talking about completely different animals. Add to that the difference in stature and offerings and it's unclear how likely any real confusion could possibly be.
And, since the potential confusion is really the question in trademark actions, you might have expected Wawa to make the claim for it when asked to comment on the suit. But it only did so in a roundabout way, instead seeming to fall back on the old requirement to police excuse.
"Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce told the newspaper that the lawsuit is about fulfilling an "obligation to protect consumers from any likelihood of confusion" and protecting "the brand name," symbolized by the Canada goose whose name is a direct translation from the Native American language used in the region."
There are some barriers to Dawa winning out, which mostly amounts to both brands using the color red on signage. Still, it seems silly to soberly worry about any real customer confusion here.