Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Help Me Howard: Thats My Name
You have probably heard the expression, "It's all in a name." Well it all may be in a name but even if it's your name, sometimes you can't use it. At least that's what one South Florida woman was told by a company based in London. Can you be stopped from using your own legal name? Here is the answer from Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--All of us have names -- most of us like ours.
Lisa Harrod does.
Lisa Harrod: "I love that name. It has a ring to it...and it's my name."
Lisa liked her last name so much she named her company after it.
Lisa Harrod: "I started the company Harrods Exclusive Realty."
Lisa thought it was a great idea. She printed up thousands of brochures, and crafted signs, and then she heard from another company called Harrods.
Lisa Harrod: "I got a letter from the bigwigs of Harrods of London saying that they have got worldwide rights to that name...and that I had to change my name or dissolve my company."
Lisa could not believe she was being told to drop her last name from her own company.
Lisa Harrod: "I thought these people have got to be kidding me...got to be kidding me. The nerve to tell me I cant use my own name...I was outraged."
Now common sense tells you if you are opening a hamburger joint you can't call it Mcdonalds. Even if you name is Mcdonald. And if you want to sell soda, you can't call it Coca Cola even it that's your legal name.
But Harrods is a major department store based in London, England; and Harrods Exclusive Realty is a small company in Aventura, Florida.
Lisa Harrod: "I didn't see the correlation there of why I can't have a real estate company here in the United States because they have a department store in London...it made no sense to me."
To appease Harrods, Lisa tried dropping the "S" on a sign and calling it Harrod, but a letter from their attorney made her worry that wasn't enough.
Lisa Harrod: "That they were going to come after me with all of their strength."
At that point Lisa decided to give up and call Help Me Howard to help with Harrods.
Lisa Harrod: "It's ridiculous...it really is ridiculous."
So Howard, can Harrod use her own name on her own company?
Howard Finkelstein, Seven's Legal Expert: "Sometimes you can and sometimes you can't, and by that I mean you can use your own name unless someone else has a trademark on it and your use will misled or confuse the public into thinking they are doing business with the other company."
When we called Harrods they said they are also in the real estate business and Lisa could only use Harrod if she used her first name and called the company Lisa Harrod Exclusive Realty.
She also had to drop the scripted use of the name.
When we talked to Lisa she agreed to drop the scripted use of the name and the "S" from Harrods but she said she will not add Lisa to the title and will call her company Harrod Exclusive Realty.
Howard says thats risky...
Howard Finkelstein: "Harrods has the money and the lawyers and the incentive to sue because if they don't and allow people to use their name, they could lose the protection of their trademark."
Lisa says she will continue to use Harrod, because she thinks that makes it different from Harrods.
Lisa Harrod: "I think that I should be able to use my name. I think that I have the absolute right to use my own name."
Patrick Fraser: "Of course, if Harrods sues Lisa and wins -- in most Florida cases -- her small company is liable and not her personally. So she can just move on. Now if you are curious and want to see if your name is still available for you to use just go to this website. Or if you dont have a pen just click on wsvn.com and Help Me Howard."
Feel like a mess has marked you? Wanna trade it in? Contact us. In some cases we put your name under a solution. Free and clear.
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