Just because you have in-house attorneys, doesn’t mean you should always use them.
According to The Day in New London CT (ed: reg req after 1 day, bah!) , Subway had its attorneys lob a legal Meatball Marinara at an alleged competitor, unintentionally enhancing their quarry’s business in the process:
Upstart Steakways of Milford, a family sandwich shop focusing on beef, pork and chicken, can thank the international behemoth Subway for generating interest and new customers. Subway, meanwhile, appears to have confused its own position in the market by groveling in turf where no war existed. Seems to me the legal department has too much free time on its hands.
The brouhaha began last month when the Subway legal department sent a cease-and-desist letter to Steakways. â€œSteakways,â€ corporate attorney Valerie Pochron wrote, â€œis confusingly similar to … Subway … and maybe [sic]â€ a trademark infringement.
As the owner of Steakways noted,
â€œI’m getting a lot of activity on this,â€ said Brian Bowser, who launched Steakways with his father. â€œI can’t understand how this is a threat to 2,600 stores in 81 countries.â€
(ed: It’s actually 24,648 stores in 82 countries).
Then there’s the obligatory quote from the “local expert”:
â€œSubway couldn’t have been a better advocate for more business for Steakways,â€ said Michael London, a Trumbull-based marketing and public relations consultant. â€œIt would have been nearly impossible for a small business like Steakways to get national media attention. Subway made it happen. It would have been smarter for Subway to ignore this business. No one would have cared.â€
When news outlets picked up on the story, Subway seems to have circled the wagons and refused comment. The media love a David and Goliath (or Jared) type of story. It’s not easy, but you have to think about your fundamental legal position and how these things will play in the press before you dash off the initial C&D.
Perhaps Subway should fly a flag of surrender.
For the record, I dine at Subway, and am partial to the new Turkey Wrap (which goes very well with bag-in-a-box Chardonnay).