Trademarks. Registered Trademark.
The protection of your Trademarks is REALLY important. Why? Because if you don’t protect them, someone else will. And you may not be as lucky as the owner of Tavern on the Green to get your trademarks back. A registered trademark is an essential element of your brand.
Tavern on the Green. Trademark.
In the mid-1970’s one of my most favorite restaurants was Tavern on the Green. Along with Maxwell’s Plum, it was the place to be if you were young, single, hip, and even marginally attractive. Assumed to be owned by Warner LeRoy, in fact it was owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (“Parks & Recreation”). Over the years since it opened in 1934 until it closed in 2009, it was leased to a number of entities, namely LeRoy Adventures, which owned and operated Maxwell’s Plum, Potomac in Washington, DC, and the Russian Tea Room.
On May 12, 1981, Tavern on the Green was registered as a federal trademark. For the purpose of that registration, LeRoy Adventures was the owner. There was no challenge by the real owner, because Parks & Recreation probably didn’t even know what was going on. In 2009, LeRoy Adventures filed for a Chapter 11 reorganization and tried to auction its trademarks to the highest bidder. He was not successful, because the federal court stepped in.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said, “no way.” That Court determined that the real owner, Parks & Recreation had continuously owned the restaurant since 1934. That Court also held that because LeRoy Adventures did not tell the truth, as to the real owner, that they did not deserve to keep the trademark, which was valued at millions of dollars.
While there are many messages here, one that is most important is to protect what is yours. It is wonderful that Parks & Recreation won its case. But, had it registered its trademark in the very beginning, or had it even paid attention back in 1981, when LeRoy registered the trademark, Parks & Recreation could have stopped him and saved itself a ton of money. BTW, Tavern on the Green reopens on April 24, 2014.