Letter: A taco by any other name

A taco by any other name

Editor of the Reformer:

Your flippant treatment of an alleged anti-competitive threat posed by a local taco seller ("Tito's Tacos to change name following trademark tangle," Oct. 4) shouts for a response by a professional trademark-law economist. One isn't nearby at the moment, but I played a banker in community theatre once, which is practically the same, so here's my two-cents worth. (I am going to admit ahead of time, I am being tongue in cheek here.)

The issue goes beyond a small Brattleboro business' co-opting the existing name of a small local restaurant in California. It strikes at the heart of American small business, which is the backbone, or a small part of it, of the American economy success story.

First, what are the odds that the Brattleboro business independently chose the same name, "Tito's Tacos," as a similar small business way over in California? It's such an unusual and unlikely name for a taco business, the odds are incalculably low, or at least, incalculable, so on to my second observation:

Second, the threat of economic damage on the California guy posed by the Brattleboro guy are potentially huge.

Consider the following plausible (I didn't say likely) scenario: a family from that California town decides to take a vacation in Brattleboro. (What? It could happen!) It's a long trip, and they could stock up on a supply of the California Tito's Tacos and eat them here at, say, a picnic bench in Living Memorial Park, but they know someone who knows someone who's been to Brattleboro and that someone says "they have tacos over there (Brattleboro)," so the family decides to postpone its purchase of California's Tito's Tacos — an immeasurable loss (or at least I don't know how to measure it) to the financial health of the California taco stand.

The sale of four Brattleboro Tico's Tacos to the California family that might someday visit Brattleboro (it could happen) is a direct hit to the California firm because the family saw "Tito's Tacos" here, and felt an overpowering sense of coziness from back home" and bought the infringing tacos instead of what they thought were the "real thing" from California.

It's this "mistaken identity" that the attorney for the California taco place is talking about when he complains of the potential "death" (his word) to his client's business caused by our local taco stand's use of the hard-to-believe-it-was-taken-from-thin-air "Tito's Tacos" name for a local taco joint.

Maybe "Tito's Brattleboro Tacos" would avoid any trademark-infringing calamity to the California taco stand. These are serious economic times, deserving serious attention to our real problems.

Roger Corey, Brattleboro, Oct. 5


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