Village Hotels Bullies Small Pub Into Changing Its Name By Brandishing Its 'Village' Trademark

from the it-takes-a-bully dept

Seeing trademark bullies in operation, particularly when a large entity bullies a small business, will never cease being a source of frustration for me. That said, my frustration gets supercharged when the trademark being wielded as a bullying weapon is laughably generic and clearly should never have been granted in the first place. And when the bully is attacking a company that it doesn't even compete with, that's the anger-cherry on top of the hate-sundae.

Speaking of which: meet Village Hotels. Based in the UK, the chain operates 29 hotel properties and makes for itself a great deal of money. BH Village Inn, on the other hand, is a community owned pub in Roughlee, Lancashire. It has no rooms for rent. It has no concierge. It was simply a pub, once known as the Bay Horse Inn, which was bought by three hundred residents of the town and re-opened as the Bay Horse Village Inn, as a nod to the community ownership. They tried to register the name of the pub as a trademark. That's when Village Hotels fired off a threat letter.

In their letter on behalf of Village Hotels, DWF solicitors said: 'Our client owns an international portfolio of registered trademarks, including registrations for Village. It has come to our client's attention that you have registered the name 'BH Village Inns Ltd' and that you describe the nature of the business as 'public houses and bars'. Our client operates a successful hotel business comprising 29 hotels in the UK with a turnover of approximately £185million. Your use of the company's name is highly likely to cause considerable confusion in the minds of the public. Unless stopped, this will cause substantial damage to our company's reputation and goodwill and will not be tolerated.'

Yes, despite the two entities not remotely competing with one another, Village Hotels sent this letter off and then gave the folks running the BH Village Inn two weeks to change its name. This, despite there not being any threat of confusion or competition. Not to mention that this bullying was championed as the result of a hotel group holding an EU trademark on the word "village", which is fairly crazy. That word is all kinds of generic, so much so that it's used everywhere, as one of the folks behind BH Village Inn noted.

Mr Swarbrick, who has taken over the running of pub after it was bought by the local community, said: 'It is quite ridiculous. I checked with Companies House and there are 4,800 other companies which have 'village' in their name.

'I phoned their solicitor and asked if he was planning to contact all of them as well.'

Despite this, and despite the conversations Swarbrick had with several lawyers, all of whom assured him he would win his case if Village Hotels took this to trial, the name of the pub will indeed be changed. They will instead simply register the pub as BHVI. Why? Because money, of course. Bullies like Village Hotels rely on having a bigger legal war chest than the small businesses on which they prey. The BH Village Inn couldn't afford the trial, so its name gets changed to BHVI.

Trademark bullying works, at least until the backlash hits the profit margin.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 12:11pm

    Is this hotel chain associated with Village Roadshow the film company? I'm very confused, I think a lawsuit is needed.

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