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?