Tom Kelly, former GM of WHAT-AM Philadelphia launched his “Martini Lounge Radio” radio show from the station to online-only (via iRadioPhilly.com) in 2008 and applied for a name trademark. In 2009, the Patent & Trademark Office granted it, giving him ownership, but now four years later, AOL is making some moves to have the trademark cancelled, reports Philadelphia Magazine.
AOL has its own Martini Lounge online channel, which also plays Adult Standards/Rat Pack tunes from Sinatra, Dean Martin and others.
The story says that Kelly, after finding out about the AOL station, sent a letter to telling them they are infringing on his trademarked name.
AOL then abruptly filed a petition for cancellation with the Patent Office, claiming that Kelly’s trademark should be invalidated because AOL’s commercial use of name “Martini Lounge” predated Kelly’s. “The same day that AOL filed that petition, it also filed its own trademark application for the name, claiming that it had been using the term since way back in 2005, two years before Kelly’s show went on the air on WHAT,” noted the story.
According to Philadelphia trademark attorney Jordan LaVine, the case is a pretty cut-and-dry one if AOL can demonstrate first use: “This really is one of those David vs. Goliath situations. But the lesson here is: whenever you send a demand letter, you want to be very, very sure you have prior rights.”
So far, AOL hasn’t provided any evidence to Kelly or his attorney that it was first to the party with “Martini Lounge,” but does Kelly has the financial backing to fight a trademark war with such a big company? “AOL obviously has a helluva lot more money…This is just how these big companies work,” he said.
RBR-TVBR observation: The story made a good point. If Kelly hadn’t challenged AOL in the first place, nothing would have likely happened. Worse-case scenario—Kelly will just have to alter the name a bit. For example, Kansas Public Radio’s “Retro Cocktail Hour” (same format) has run for something like 12 years and is now syndicated to a handful of other public radio stations. Lesson learned—do a little research before you initiate a legal action.