Hollister – Can anyone own the name “Hollister”?
Local businesswoman Stacey Crummett doesn’t think so, and she’s hoping the federal government agrees.
Crummett said clothing manufacturer Abercrombie & Fitch Trading Co.’s many trademarks containing the word “Hollister” are invalid, and she has filed a protest with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. On Monday, the Hollister City Council approved a letter to the trademark office expressing similar concerns.
“They don’t deserve an exclusive claim, and they shouldn’t harass other people when they use the name,” Crummett said.
Crummett’s legal issues with Abercrombie & Fitch – which owns the teenage clothing store Hollister Co. – began after she purchased the once-popular denim company Rag City Blues. Crummett labeled her jeans “Rag City Blues Hollister,” and Abercrombie and Fitch attorneys soon sent her a letter stating that her use of the word “Hollister” violated the company’s trademark.
Crummett complied with the lawyers’ request, but she Friday that she is now contesting all of Abercrombie & Fitch’s Hollister trademarks. It isn’t just wrong to trademark a city’s name, she said. Crummett believes it’s also misleading since Abercrombie & Fitch is based in Ohio.
“It’s considered deceptive, making people think goods are coming from an area that they’re not coming from,” Crummett said.
City Manager Clint Quilter said the city’s letter is specifically concerned with Abercrombie & Fitch’s pending cologne trademark “Hollister California Socal.” The letter asks that anyone who wants to protest the trademark be given 90 more days before the trademark takes effect.
Place names can’t be trademarked, and even though “Hollister California Socal” isn’t a place, Quilter said, “it’s awfully close.”
The Free Lance was unable to reach Christine Till, a spokeswoman for Abercrombie & Fitch’s intellectual property law firm Howrey LLP, by press time Friday. Till previously said she would be “unable to comment” on the issue.
Crummett said the city’s support has “given me some backbone,” and she’s hoping that other locals send protests, too. But she said they’ll need some legal advice first because it isn’t as simple as dashing off an angry note.
In the city’s case, council members authorized staff to pay an outside law firm up to $1,500 to write the letter. Councilwoman Monica Johnson said the issue doesn’t just affect Rag City Blues.
“It is our name, not just as a city, but as a community,” Johnson said.
She added that the City of Hollister doesn’t have the money for a big legal fight with Abercrombie and Fitch, and she’s hoping that other businesses decide to get involved.
Crummett has said she can’t pay attorneys to battle a “million-dollar beast” either. For now, she’s working on her own through the trademark office.
“I’ll go as far as I can go … without a lawyer,” she said.