Lawyer Sues His Own Son To Block Use Of Legal Name

This blog regularly looks at copyright and trademark claims, particularly with regard to efforts to claim common terms or names as property. A case this week however has the distinction of a lawyer claiming a trademark violation against his own son for using his legally given name. George Sink Sr. is suing George Sink Jr. for the confusion raised by the two law firm names.

Sink Sr. advertises extensively with 13 offices in South Carolina and Georgia . Sink Jr. worked for his father but was later fired.

He then set up his own law firm as George Sink II Law Firm in North Charleston. Sink Sr. objected that his son used his middle name while growing up, viz. “Ted” or “Teddy.” He alleged that the use of George Sink II was meant to confuse the son for the father and that the latter had lost customers as a result.

We have been discussing a disturbing trend in copyright and trademark claims over things occurring in public or common phrases or terms. (For a prior column, click here). We have often discussed the abusive expansion of copyright and trademark laws. This includes common phrases, symbols, and images being claimed as private property (here and here and here and here and here and hereand here and here and here and here and here and here). This included a New York artist claiming that he holds the trademark to symbol π.  Even the Trump legal team sought to trademark “Keep America Great.”

This case however involves one firm essentially giving a name to the other firm and then suing to bar the use of that name.

Sink Jr. went to Yale for his undergraduate degree and then Charleston Law School. He began working for his father as a marketing employee at his father’s firm in 2013 and later started working as a lawyer after graduating from law school. However, that appears to have been short-lived with his firing last February.

Sink Sr. maintains that he is taking this action “to protect consumers of legal services.” He is throwing the book at his son with claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition, cybersquatting, unfair trade practice, and dilution.

It seems to be a rather dubious trademark claim to try to block an attorney from using the name that you gave him.

What do you think?

17 thoughts on “Lawyer Sues His Own Son To Block Use Of Legal Name”

  1. Viable prima facie claim, but loses due to equitable estoppel. Easy outcome.
    End of story.

  2. Well, sure, maybe the son is deliberately using his legal name rather than his middle name in order to capitalize on the cache of the family name. That is his legal right, as his father made the effort to name him Jr. This is typically done to emphasize the family connection. Well, now his son is emphasizing it.

    The son has the right to his own legal name. Whatever happened that led to the firing and subsequent lawsuit, holidays must be very interesting with them.

    1. It’s quite surprising to see these kinds of comments on Turley’s site. You assert then that someone with the legal name of “Norm McDonald” can open a fast food chain named “N McDonald’s?” Is it your official legal opinion that someone’s “legal name” takes precedence over trade mark law? Do you believe that I can legally change my name to “Nelson Mullins” and open a law practice called “Nelson Mullins Attorneys” in Columbia, SC? I’m rather shocked to see these types of remarks, honestly.

  3. George Sink, Sr. is obviously abusing the law as a weapon to punish his son. Hopefully, the judge hearing that case will send the litigious father away with nothing for his trouble but a well-deserved lecture on the limits of the law.

    1. Oh, it’s “obvious.” I see now. So if Paris Hilton opens a couple of “Hilton Hotel II” hotels next to other Hilton Hotels, and if the corporation attempts to protect decades of marketing and trade mark building, your learned legal opinion is that the Hilton board should get a “well-deserved lecture” for protecting the mark? And when Paris Hilton, after gaining such a stellar legal ruling, immediately sells to Holiday Inn, they you’d just say “Golly, I didn’t think about that. Maybe it’s not so obvious after all.”

  4. Late Breaking News! Judge orders Junior to change his first name to Kitchen and Senior to change his last name to ‘or swim.’

  5. Harley Davidson motorcycle engines are 45 degree V-twins. The firing order produces a particular exhaust pulse commonly described as, “potato-potato-potato-potato….” By the mid-1970s the Japanese grew a brain and built H-D clones with the same V-twin angle and exhaust pulse.

    H-D’s first response to this financial threat was to force a big import tariff on all imported motorcycles over 700cc, which thankfully lasted only a few years (H-D’s market is and almost always has been motors over 700cc). Later H-D sued in a vain and pathetic attempt to claim TM infringement for their once-unique exhaust sound. The court thankfully ruled in favor of the defendants.

    Since then most OEMs make or has made a bike that sounds exactly like H-D.

  6. (music- to the tune of Hotnuts)

    Sinkhole! Call him Sinkhole!
    What kind… of people stand on sinkholes?
    Fat kids, skinny kids,,,kids who climb on rocks.
    Dumb yids, whinny shids,…
    Even yids with chickenpox…
    Are sinkholes…
    They are sinkholes.
    The kind.. kids… like… to fight!

  7. Sounds like a real happy family.

    I wish Sink the Younger, well, and hope he builds a solo practice or small partnership of the proper sort. No clue who did what to whom at his father’s firm, but the older Sink is certainly a pustule.

    I’ve a much admired cousin who is a solo practitioner of the proper sort, working in the same little town in New York since 1972. He said some years ago there’s no income for lawyers of his type in personal injury anymore because the late-night TV shysters have hoovered it up.

    1. I quote: “No clue who did what to whom, but the older Sink is certainly a pustule.” Admissions of total ignorance on a subject followed by assertions of certainly are not desirable traits for legal scholars. And a quick Westlaw search failed to yield “pustule” as a basis for dispensing with established law. I trust you are not an attorney?

  8. I doubt Sink the Elder expects to prevail all. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover they cooked up this lawsuit for the free media attention it would bring to their respective practices.

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