Should a Business Owner Handle Their Own Dispute?

Richard Rimer

February 14, 2023

Read on.  My answer to this question may shock you!

Last year a client came to me with bad news.  This client had operated a restaurant for a number of years.  The building it was in suffered a disaster, and he was forced out of business for months.  While he was working to reopen, he learned that another company was trying to beat him to the punch.  This other company was trying to open a competing restaurant with the EXACT same name.  What’s worse is that he had a business connection with this other company. 

My client came to me with a few simple questions:
– Can another party take my name when I’m not using it? 
– If not, what steps can I take to prevent this?

I told him he did not lose its rights in his brands when his restaurant was closed for an excusable reason.  You lose your rights in a brand when you abandon it, and his situation showed that he was clearly not trying to abandon it. 

Being in the right and enforcing your rights are two different things.  I like to try the least disruptive method as an initial step.  In this case I asked “Did you say you know the other party?”  He said he had a few connections; that some of the people connected with the other restaurant were former colleagues.  So I suggested “Why don’t we start with a phone call between you and the other business?”

My client was flummoxed.  Did a lawyer just suggested something less than a lawsuit?  What about a cease and desist letter?  What about a call from the lawyer?  Didn’t we have to start this with a grand legal gesture?  I told him we could use these steps later if necessary.  I like to try to resolve matters as simply as possible because it is more efficient and may even allow the parties to preserve relationships.

My client’s call was well received.  He let them know that he planned to reopen the restaurant and didn’t want the public confused about which of the #restaurants was owned by the company that always ran it.  It seems the other party got this.  The initial response was that they would not use my client’s brand on their new restaurant.

Another win for brand rights!