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Purina Marks Its Territory

Pet food giant Purina is like a dog that won't give up its bone -- or in this case, its chow.  Three years ago, Purina sent a cease-and-desist letter to Chow, Baby!, a Baltimore area pet supply shop and Web site owned by Robin McDonald, asserting that its use of the "Chow, Baby!" name was likely to cause confusion with Purina's CHOW trademarks and would dilute the distinctive quality of those marks.  McDonald's lawyer advised her that it would cost thousands of dollars to fight for the name and that she might lose anyway.  As a result, McDonald took down the Web site.  But she retained the name, Chow, Baby! for her local store, figuring that Purina wouldn't find out about it.

Now, McDonald is ready to re-launch an Internet presence.   But this time, McDonald decided to steer clear of a dogfight with Purina, and instead, changed her company's name to "Howl, Baby," subsequently shortened to Howl.

Would it really have cost McDonald "thousands of dollars" to tussle with Purina, or was her lawyer barking up the wrong tree when he dispensed that advice?  Seems to me that the term "chow" is fairly generic.  According to the dictionary, "chow" is defined as food, a meaning that dates back to 1860.  So I don't see any paws-ability to Purina's claim.  Moreover, if McDonald had ignited an Internet campaign to e-shame Purina, as some of these recipients of cease-and-desist letters have done, I'm certain that Purina would have retreated like a dog with its tail between its legs.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 2, 2008 at 03:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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