So today, a subject came up on BoingBoing that I had actually been thinking about the other day...for the life of me I can't remember why...
Anyhoo, my favourite poster, Cory (wouldn'tchaknowit?), posted this article about a lady who was successfully sued by Starbucks because she named her coffee house Sambuck's...'cause, well, her name is Sam Buck. Cory is quick to point out that she had her store open before a Starbucks opened down the street (like that matters - the brand was obviously known to her) and that this woman will have to change all of her signs and cups etc.
Here's the thing: the sign clearly shows that the store is not called Sam Buck's Coffee, but rather sambuck's coffee. While there is the apostrophe there, it is quite clear that Miss Buck was mimicking the Starbucks name for the purposes of her shop. Hence, I'd have to say Starbucks has a point. Had it been sambuck's waffle house it might not have been so bad.
That said, I must say I object to the use of copyright to protect names like McDonald's. I mean, hell, McDonald's is a freakin' common last name. If I'm a McDonald and I wanna open a book store named McDonald's I should be able to. My daddy gave me that name. I didn't rip it off your cheeseburger wrappers.
To that end, I believe a company like McDonald's should only be able to copyright a more unique/specific brand such as McDonald's Big Mac or the exact patter of the golden arches. (why am I suddenly thinking about "Coming to America"?)
But if you're gonna us Mattresses 'R' Us etc, then you should be prepared that you're gonna get a letter from some big shot corporate lawyers. While I don't so much object to that example, it's fairly clear you're capitalizing on a more famous brand. Use your imagination and come up with your own.
But I'll never forgive the World Wildlife Fund for making wrestling icon WWF change their name to WWE. It sounds so lame now...