Caffeine jitters

They have the java, but who has the jive?

Caffeine jitters: So the McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., owner of financial services firm Standard & Poor's, has sued local coffeehouse Standard & Pours over alleged trademark infringement (see "Poor Standard & Pours?" by Robert Wilonsky, July 6). As we reported on the Dallas Observer's blog Unfair Park, fans of the artsy coffee shop--and there are tons of them--think McGraw-Hill is behaving like, and we're summing up here, "big corporate butt-heads."

The company not only wants Standard & Pours to change its name, it also wants the coffee house's profits plus treble damages, legal fees and probably one of shop owner Pascale Hall's kidneys before all is done.

But at the risk of royally annoying all the java junkies and Standard & Pours fans among Buzz's dozens of readers, we have to ask this question: Doesn't McGraw-Hill have a point? Sure, a federal lawsuit sounds like overkill--sort of like using a flamethrower to rid yourself of a gnat. That's wholly unreasonable...unless that gnat is really annoying you and you happen to have a flamethrower handy. McGraw-Hill has tons of metaphorical flamethrowers, in terms of money and lawyers.

So McGraw-Hill has the muscle, you caffeinated folk say. Might doesn't make right. True, but then Hall didn't name her shop Standard & Pours because no one has ever heard of the other Standard & Poor's. McGraw-Hill registered the name, and they can put as big a lock on their property as they like. Certainly, a homophonic-named coffee shop south of downtown Dallas doesn't seem likely to do much harm to S&P, but then having a skateboarder skitch onto the bumper of your moving car doesn't burn much gas either. Bet you don't like it on your car though.

"Standard & Poor's has built one of the most respected names in the financial world, and it is inappropriate for Ms. Hall to profit from our well-established brand name, reputation and good will," a McGraw-Hill spokesperson wrote Buzz.

So Buzz is siding with big, fat corporate America. Are we selling out? Depends. What are you offering? Ha-ha. We kid. (Not really.) And the fact that this paper has trademarked the name Best of Dallas in no way influences our honest opinion of the importance of trademarks.

But if you use the words "best," "of" or "Dallas" in any form, written or broadcast, we will sue your butts.

 
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