Steve's Soapbox

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Subway goes after Steakways.....

Steakways and Subway: Never the names shall meet?
Chris Rhatigan, Register Staff
MILFORD — In the local world of fast food sandwiches, there is a Steakways and a Subway.
But if Subway gets its way, there will be no Steakways.
The Steakways sandwich shop, owned by Brian Vowser of Orange, has run smack into the mammoth corporation because Milford-based Subway does not want what it claims is an infringement on its trademarked name.
Subway has filed for a cease and desist order against Steakways, claiming the name of the Naugatuck Avenue shop is too similar to its own. If Steakways does not comply with the order by Friday, with Vowser agreeing to change his shop’s name, the case will go to trial.
Steakways has one location, but Vowser said a second location is slated to open on East Main Street in Bridgeport.
Subway has more than 24,000 locations in 81 countries.
Vowser contends that Subway’s trademark case is bogus.
"I don’t see how the two names have any similarity," he said.
Also, while the Steakways sign has a red background with white letters, Subway has a green background with white and light-green letters.
But Subway spokesman Les Winograd, who confirmed that the company has taken legal action against Steakways, said the sandwich giant sees things differently.
"It’s a trademark issue. We want to protect our brand," he said. Winograd declined to comment further on the case.
Coincidentally, Steakways’ headquarters is across the street from Subway Corp. headquarters on Bic Drive. Vowser said he filed paperwork to trademark the Steakways name and is looking to make the business a franchise.
He said he believes Subway is trying to push him out of the market by filing the cease and desist action. While he also believes his case is strong, Subway’s deep resources could keep litigation going for a long time, he said.
"This can drag on and on and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said. "I just can’t afford that."
The other option is to change the name, and Vowser said that also would be costly, forcing him to change the name outside his shop, in advertisements and on the offices.
Additionally, he said, the name Steakways fits the concept of the business, which is serving steak sandwiches in many different ways.
Vowser said that before filing for the trademark, he did some research and found a small, Texas-based chain called Steakway. He contacted the proprietors, who had no beef with the name Steakways.
Seth Cohen, Vowser’s attorney, said the case is not a "slam dunk" for his client and Subway could prevail.
Precedent in favor of Subway’s case includes McDonald’s Corp. v. McBagels, which McDonald’s won. According to an article by Manhattan-based law firm Cowan, Liebowitz and Latman titled "Consumer Survey in Trademark Litigation," McDonald’s representatives surveyed people in New York state, asking, "Who do you think sponsors or promotes McBagels?" Thirty-seven percent of respondents responded McDonald’s.
However, Cohen said the Steakways case may never go to court, and he compared Subway to "a 600-pound gorilla throwing its weight around."
"There’s a possibility that this is just a scare tactic," he said.
Vowser said he has not decided yet how far he is willing go to keep his shop’s name.
Interesting McDonalds Background reading and history....
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