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Lawyers barred from using own names

It is a truism that clients hire lawyers not law firms. But what happens when lawyers and firms stake competing claims in the same name? The federal court in Connecticut recently barred two lawyers from using their own names in the name of their firm. The name of their New London firm, Suisman & Shapiro, formed in 2004, violated the trademark of another, much-older New London firm Suisman, Shapiro, Wool, Brennan, Gray & Greenberg, the court said.

The lawyers at the center of the dispute, S. Joel Suisman and Andrew Shapiro, are both former members of the original firm and the sons of its founders. When the younger Suisman left the original firm in 2004 and joined with Shapiro to start the new firm, the original firm sued in federal court alleging violations of federal and state trademark and trade practices laws. In June 2004, U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall entered a preliminary order against the new firm's use of the name. On Feb. 15, she made that order permanent.

The judge explained:

"A reasonable fact finder could reach no conclusion, on the basis of the undisputed evidence, other than that, in the market for legal services in Connecticut, the mark 'Suisman Shapiro' has become synonymous with, and refers distinctly to, the entity that is the plaintiff law firm. Accordingly, the plaintiff firm has demonstrated that the mark in question has, as a matter of law, acquired secondary meaning and is entitled to protection under the Lanham Act."

A 2004 New York Lawyer report on the preliminary injunction provides more background on the case.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 22, 2006 at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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