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Trademark Issues for Martha Stewart

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An article on postcrescent.com reports that Martha Stewart, who recently spent several months in jail, is currently using her name to sell furniture
from her Katonah Collection, which include a four-poster bed and a tailored English sofa.

As a result, Martha and her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimeida, Inc., are applying for trademark protection for the Katonah Collection, named after her new hometown, Katonah, in upstate New York.

Stewart moved to Katonah after having lived in Westport,Connecticut for more than 30 years.  Katonah is named after a 17th-century Indian chief.  Not only are the residents of Katonah not excited that Stewart, an ex-con, has moved in, they are even less excited that she is planning on trademarking the name of their town.

It is common for manufacturers to trademark the name of their own town to market their goods or services to distinguish them from products manufactured elsewhere.   These types of trademarks are known as "geographical indication," as defined in the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

However, under U.S. trademark law, geographic terms can’t be registered as trademarks if they are merely descriptive or if they are geographically misdescriptive of where the goods or services originate. 

The best example of geographic indications is the Florida Sunshine Tree.  According to the United States Patent & Trademark Office, geographic indication plays an integral role in promoting trade and consumer interests, as a company’s goodwill and reputation are linked to its products.

The United States Patent & Trademark Office, also maintains that other producers in the area need to be able to use a geographic term to describe where their goods or services originate. 

In other words, Stewart’s trademark rights will not prevent her neighbor from opening Katonah Beer Depot, but they would prevent someone from using the name Katonah in relation to a furniture store.

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