Saks Fifth Avenue Threatens Snaks 5th Avenchew Dog Treat Company Over Trademark, Then Backs Off

from the punching-the-bully dept

There's an old saying that goes something like: bullies are cowards, and if you fight back, they'll run away. Like most sayings of the kind, it's not nearly as universal as it claims to be, but sometimes the old saying is an old saying for a reason. Take the story of Saks Fifth Avenue deciding to threaten trademark action against the owner of Snaks 5th Avenchew, a small business that provides specialty treats for dogs like mine.

"Did you say something about treats?"

Upon learning of the clearly threatening company run by one woman to make puppies happy, Saks sent her a sternly-worded letter. It was a typical cease and desist, claiming that Snaks was endangering the Saks brand through dilution. It seems likely that the lawyers for Saks figured Carrie Sarabella, owner of Snaks 5th Avenchew, would be so frightened by the letter as to simply change the name of her business. Those lawyers would be wrong. She got herself a lawyer instead, who sent Saks a letter in reply.
But Sarabella, 32, who sells merchandise online and directly to retailers, hired Sam Israel, a copyright lawyer, who fired back with a missive of his own. Israel said he argued the name was acceptable under the so-called fair-use law, which “recognizes that parody marks cause no harm to the established mark.” Israel cited the examples of pet perfume brand Tommy Holedigger and fluffy toys maker Chewy Vuiton — both of which survived federal infringement suits from the companies they spoof, Tommy Hilfiger and Louis Vuitton.
Pretty funny parody names, right?

"Seriously, what's the ETA on these treats?"
Anyway, the whole story comes packaged with a happy ending. After her lawyer sent the letter, Saks replied by saying they were dropping the matter entirely. Sarabella gets to go back to running her business, with a little publicity boost thanks to this story, and Saks Fifth Avenue gets a slight publicity black eye and looks like the bully they attempted to be. You have to wonder how many times this story went the opposite direction, however, in which no lawyers for the small business ever acted and the bully won. Not a pleasant thought.

"I'm not getting any treats, am I?"

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Filed Under: carrie sarabella, fair use, snaks 5th avenchew, trademark
Companies: saks fifth avenue

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