Thursday, October 8, 2009

Local Las Vegas companies in a trademark feud over “Appliance Doctor”

The Las Vegas Sun ran a story today (link here) about a dispute between two appliance repair businesses in the Las Vegas valley using the name “Appliance Doctor” to identify their businesses.

Samuel and Mary Gravino, the owners of Applicance Doctor LLC, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in Clark County District Court against a company operating as “The Appliance Doctor of Las Vegas” owned by Ken and Melissa Jagmin.

The Gravinos claim to have been using the name “Appliance Doctor” in Las Vegas for over 26 years. Of course, it wasn't until a little over a week ago on September 29, 2009, that their company actually registered APPLIANCE DOCTOR LLC as a trade name with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office (claiming date of first use as October 2, 1989) for “appliance repairs” (of course, their Las Vegas Business license lists the date their business license was issued as October 23, 1989).

According to their complaint, the Gravinos claim to have been receiving calls from angry, disgruntled customers who believed that their company had provided services that it turns out were provided by “The Appliance Doctor of Las Vegas.” The Gravinos claim that the Jagmins, who received their business license on April 30, 2009, are trading off the name, reputation and goodwill that the Gravinos have established over the last 26 years.

When reached for comment, Mr. Jagmin stated that “Appliance Doctor” is commonly used by such companies around the nation and he’s unaware of any trademark covering the name.

A quick internet search does support Mr. Jagmin’s case about the term “Appliance Doctor” being commonly used in connection with appliance repair services. However, as for any trademark on the name, surprisingly, THE APPLIANCE DOCTOR and APPLICANCE DOCTOR are actually federally registered trademarks of a Wichita company named Appliance Doctor, Inc. Based on the widespread (but localized) use of “Appliance Doctor” it would appear that Appliance Doctor, Inc. has not done a very good job of enforcing its trademark rights nationwide. Of course, if it’s true that the Gravinos have been using the name APPLIANCE DOCTOR in the Las Vegas area for over 26 years – long before Appliance Doctor, Inc. received its first trademark registration in 1996– then they would have clear prior user rights to continue to use the name.

Mr. Jagmin also commented that his name was different than his competitor because it includes the phrase “of Las Vegas.” [Someone might want to explain to Mr. Jagmin that additional geographically descriptive words don’t really carry much weight in analyzing whether two marks are likely to cause confusion, especially when the services rendered by “Appliance Doctor” are in the Las Vegas area. I’m thinking about opening a competing hotel/casino called “Red Rock of Las Vegas” – no one would confuse that with “Red Rock” Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, right?] Of course, Mr. Jagmin fails to mention that on the company's website, the logo (pictured below) is just “The Appliance Doctor” with the “of Las Vegas” used more in the text of the website.

I wonder if the Gravinos would have still claimed trademark infringement if the Jagmin’s had used “The Appliance Doc of Las Vegas.” Given the commonality of the phrase “Appliance Doctor” would use of just the shorthand “Doc” suffice to alleviate consumer confusion?


Anonymous said...

I find it odd that you state what Mr. Jagmin said when reached for comment, since he was never contacted for comment by you...hmmmmm. Also you have left out part of the logo. Most of your information is incorrect.

Ryan Gile said...

Just referincing the story in the Las Vegas Sun -- the reporter indicated that such a comment was made. What else is inaccurate?

Anonymous said...

You copied and pasted in the logo, but you left off part of it. The Appliance Doctor of Las Vegas is entirely in the logo.

I also have a question for you. How is it that licensing could have been obtained if something "unethical" or illegal was done? The state and the county both said OK and issued legitimate licenses.

trademark registration said...

A general word (such as appliance doctor) should be registered as a trademark only for the first company who coined the particular word.

- Vincent