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. icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 6 Nov 2017 @ 7:53pm

    Your use of the company's name is highly likely to cause considerable confusion in the minds of the public.

    Yet again, the good ol' "Everyone's a moron" defense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 6 Nov 2017 @ 8:25pm

    ..at least until the backlash hits the profit margin.

    (cough)

    https://www.facebook.com/pg/VillageHotels/reviews/

    (oops)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 6 Nov 2017 @ 9:24pm

    Re:

    Ahaha. I could just see it. "Hi Indignant observer of trademark overreach! Could you pleas DM us..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 6 Nov 2017 @ 9:52pm

    At least they seemed to apologize and back off, although one never knows if that is simply a post-getting-what-they-wanted manoeuver.

    The Brexit seems strong in that village, though. (Or mayyyybe the Mail is selective in their choice of quotes. Or both.) I hope they aren't surprised to find out that the EU is hardly unique in regards to "regulations", and possibly take note that the EU did not threaten them, but an entirely UK company, VUR Village Trading No 1 Limited (who parent / holding companies are also UK), did.

    The whole thing is sadly idiotic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Nov 2017 @ 11:48pm

    Re:

    They should have NEVER been able to trademark Village in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    David, 6 Nov 2017 @ 11:49pm

    BHVI?

    And V standing for "Village"? Uh oh. They are going to get sued by the YMCA. Because 4 letter abbreviation and Village People.

    If that isn't an open-and-shut case of trademark confusion...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 2:10am

    The List Grows

    Now we add Village Hotels to the collection of companies with whom we NEVER do business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 3:49am

    Re:

    "Yet again, the good ol' "Everyone's a Village Idiot" defense.

    FTFY.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Ninja (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 3:54am

    And then Village Hotels lawyers threw a party sprinkled with money and YMCA playing in the background.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Nov 2017 @ 5:34am

    You know how the old saying goes... It takes a village to raise a bully.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    The Projectiin defense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    JustMe (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 8:58am

    That's 29 hotels I can avoid

    When we go to The England in a couple of years. Of course, if I'm staying near one of them I might pop in to see if their hospitality is as atrocious as their legal advice, making sure to note any problems in loquacious reviews on as many platforms as I can find. Nice way to kill an afternoon in the pub, wot?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Stosh, 7 Nov 2017 @ 10:20am

    I have a Village Pub a couple blocks from my home. A rather popular chain in my neck of the woods, eat there often.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Adrian Cherry (profile), 7 Nov 2017 @ 10:31am

    Re:

    LOL - I think BHVI ought to reply to Village Hotels thanking them for pointing out the possible confusion over their name. With a reputation like that I'd put as much distance as possible between the Bay Horse Inn and Village Hotels.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    ralph_the_bus_driver (profile), 9 Nov 2017 @ 11:04am

    Re: Re:

    They trademarked "Villahe Hotels". They want to extend that to any service using the word "village" in their name.

    The pub would be smart to contact their local MP and have the Village Hotels registration checked for being too broad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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