from the going public dept
A good public outcry and backlash can lead to many, many good things. We see it here at Techdirt all the time, particularly when it comes to aggressive bullying episodes over intellectual property. Some person or company will try to play IP bully against some victim, the public gets wind of it and throws a fit, and suddenly the necessity over the IP action goes away. Retailers, manufacturers, breweries: public outcry is a great way to end ridiculous legal actions.
A recent example of this comes out of Tulsa, OK, where a riverside park of all places decided it had to sue a coffee shop over a similar, if fairly generic, name. Gathering Place is a park in Tulsa, a… place… where people… you know… gather. The Gathering Place is a coffee shop in Shawnee, 90 miles from Tulsa, where people get coffee and, I imagine, occasionally gather. But despite any gathering similarities, coffee shops are not parks and 90 miles is a fairly long way away. Which makes a lawsuit over trademark infringement brought by the park very, very strange.
The lawsuit alleged the coffee shop “intentionally mimicked” the name of the park to unjustly benefit from its fame.
“This couldn’t be further from the truth,” the coffee shop owners countered in a Facebook post. “It is hard to think that someone would actually be confused between a world renowned outdoor play space and a small local coffee shop located an hour and a half apart.”
It appears the public very much agrees with the coffee shop owners, as many went online to register their displeasure over the lawsuit. Several thousand people also signed an online petition backing The Gathering Place.
Hundreds lashed out at the park on Facebook after the lawsuit was filed, with some vowing never to go there again.
“Shouldn’t be suing PEOPLE. Especially mom and pop businesses. SHAME SHAME SHAME!” one critic commented on the park’s Facebook page.
The result was fairly swift. Suddenly, both sides came together and entered one of those annoying settlements I complain about so much, where nobody gets to learn any details of the terms. What has been made public is that The Gathering Place has gotten a license from the park, Gathering Place, to continue to use its name. As the source post notes, often times these licensing arrangements come with some sort of money changing hands, but what that amount might be is anyone’s guess. Given the size of The Gathering Place, you have to imagine it is fairly minimal.
Instead, the park probably witnessed the backlash and decided a quick exit is what was needed. Both to limit the legal costs of litigation as well as the cost to the reputation of the park due to the backlash by the public. Either way, I very much doubt this settlement would have been reached so quickly without the public outcry.