Big Barber Chain Bullies Owner Of Single Barbershop Over Using The Name 'Tommy'

from the a-little-over-the-top dept

It's not always true that in the lamest trademark disputes it's universally a big company trying to push around a much smaller company, but that does happen an awful, awful lot. For some reason, it seems that the moment a company or brand gets big enough, it suddenly transitions into a trademark bully looking to stamp out even the most benign competition.

That certainly seems to be the case with Tommy Gun's Original Barbershop chain firing off a C&D to the owner of Tommy's Barber Shop, claiming that the shaggy public will be super-confused as to exactly who is cutting their hair in Nova Scotia.

The owner of Tommy's Barber Shop in Dartmouth, N.S., says he has no intention of changing the name of his operation despite a cease-and-desist letter sent to him by a national chain with a similar handle. Thong Luong opened his barbershop on Albro Lake Road in 2003. On June 9, he will mark 15 years in the same spot — under the same name. He called his business Tommy's Barber Shop because he thought people would have a hard time pronouncing his Vietnamese name, Thong.

On May 9, Luong got a letter in the mail from lawyers representing Tommy Gun's Original Barbershop alleging trademark infringement and saying, "further use of the name Tommy's Barber Shop will cause confusion in the marketplace and depreciate the value."

There are a couple of things to note here. Tommy Gun's applied for its trademark in Canada in 2009. Luong opened his shop under its current name in 2003. At that time he also registered his business with the local government, something that Tommy Gun's is insisting he change as well. Tommy Gun's own LinkedIN page suggests that the chain was founded in 2009, meaning that Luong was using the name in commerce first. If anything, it seems that Luong should have been the one to have fired off a C&D rather than the other way around.

And yet, despite these facts, Luong knows he has an uphill fight ahead of him.

"I don't think I have money to fight with them but I'll try the best I can," Luong says. "I'm kind to people and probably most people like me," he says. "I just want to show people [I'm] just a small guy in the corner, and to get picked on by the big guy, Tommy Gun or whatever. I won't give up my name."

Except that Tommy Gun's has a far greater war-chest than Luong, one which they've now threatened to use against him even though he was using the disputed name years before Tommy Gun's even existed. Trademark bullying sucks.


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  • icon
    Bob H-B (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 7:31pm

    Quick and correct action.

    This was settled in a matter of hours. Tommy Gun's withdrew their takedown notice:

    https://www.thestar.com/halifax/2018/05/17/nova-scotia-barber-vows-to-keep-his-shops-name-despite-le gal-threat.html

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 May 2018 @ 12:49am

      Re: Quick and correct action.

      That's good, but it should be remembered that this is all about lawyer's fees. Publicity made the threat get withdrawn, but until copyright & trademarks are fixed these things will keep happening.

      “Now that we have all of the relevant information, we do not intend to pursue this matter any further"

      Sigh. Because getting relevant information like the public registration date of the business name you demanded to be changed is so hard before filing legal threats. Just admit you sent out a bunch of threats and waited to see if there was any public fallout before carrying them through..

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

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 18 May 2018 @ 7:57am

        Re: Re: Quick and correct action.

        The relevant information wasn't available at that point.

        (The relevant information being that that Luong would publicize the threats.)

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

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 7:36pm

    Shame

    This kind of turnaround normally only happens if the bully is shamed by public coverage.
    Continuing coverage like that provided by Techdirt is a good reminder to companies like this - don't be an asshole.
    I'm glad Tommy Gun backed down, I'm sure they wouldn't have without negative press.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 17 May 2018 @ 7:36pm

    Who?

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

  • icon
    McGyver (profile), 18 May 2018 @ 3:40am

    I find the term "trademark bullying" deficient in cases like this... Where one party has an existing business or product for a number of years, poses no threat to the other business, yet the other business is trying to take that name or title away, it's not just bullying, the other entity is clearly trying to take away something they have no right to and that is theft... In the very least a form of piracy... Perhaps not by the letter of the law, but in concept.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2018 @ 1:13pm

    The only Tommy I'll accept

    is Chris Farley as Tommy Boy

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


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