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Name Games: 10 Famous Battles Over Corporate Trademarks

The rules of power say you must protect your reputation --even if that means squashing Sam Buck or "TeachBook."

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Legal battles over the right to a corporate name almost always have a David and Goliath storyline. Frequently they feature a mighty corporation dispatching its legal team to a little-known place like Elizabethtown, Kentucky (home of what was once "Victor's Little Secret"), or Astoria, Oregon (where Sam Buck's once ran a coffee shop) and running a minor competitor out of business. 

Equally engaging are the stories of coincidences, which is probably how Budweiser found it had a doppelganger based in Europe just a few years after its 1876 launch. But how did it happen that Steve Jobs named his company Apple when Apple Records already existed? And in 2009, did John Catsimatidis, owner of a New York supermarket chain, really think he could away with opening a store called "Trader John's"? 

Nina Beckhardt, President and Creative Director at The Naming Group in New York, cautions young companies to heed these tales of legal woes. "Take your time at the beginning," says Beckhardt. If you can't hire a consulting firm like hers, see a trademark lawyer at the very least, no matter how excited you are to just get started. "It's not worth it to go with a name because you want it just to find two years later that some big corporation has taken note and says you're infringing on their trademark. Their large pocketbook will win out over your desire to have the name you love."

Budweiser VS Budweiser
Budweiser vs. Budweiser
The "King of Beers" has an army of lawyers defending its American name.
By Justin Rohrlich
Starbucks VS Sambucks
Starbucks vs. Sam Buck's
When Sam Buck opened a coffee shop in Oregon, she sparked a grande lawsuit.
By Matthew Mallon
Victoria's Secret VS Victor's Little Secret
Victoria's Secret vs. Victor's Little Secret
A small businessman's defense of the name used for his lingerie shop may one day reshape trademark law.
By Steve Burgess
Facebook VS Teachbook
Facebook vs. Teachbook
The world's largest social network will probably never "friend" this group of enterprising teachers.
By Ryan Goldberg
Trader Joe's VS Trader John's
Trader Joe's vs. Trader John's
A New York grocer named John once claimed he was also a "trader". Nice try.
By Diane Bullock
Apple computer VS Apple records
Apple Computer vs. Apple Records
When it comes to heated trademark disputes, Apple is as hypocritical as they come.
By Mike Schuster
IHOP VS IHOP
IHOP vs. IHOP
The owners of the restaurant chain have nothing against the International House of Prayer, except its acronymic name.
By Steve Burgess
Arrested Development (TV show) VS Arrested Development (band)
Arrested Development vs. Arrested Development
The briefly successful '90s band asked Fox for compensation after its briefly successful sitcom hit the small screen.
By Matthew Mallon
Ray's Pizza VS Ray's Pizza
Ray's Pizza vs. Ray's Pizza
For 50 years the debate has raged on: Which New York slice shop is truly the "famous original"?
By Justin Rohrlich
WWF (World Wresting Federation) VS WWF (World Wildlife Fund)
WWF vs. WWF
In this legal smackdown, a gentle panda was pitted against some brutal "wrestlers".
By Ryan Goldberg
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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