What’s in a name? While some claim it’s nothing more than a word (or combination of words), some people work really hard to maintain their good name. So when something comes along that might threaten that good name, they’ll do whatever it takes to put a stop to the potential harm before it gets out of hand.
Christopher Bray said he was aware of Ariel Investments at the time he created his own firm, Ariel Capital, in early 2014. But Bray claims Ariel Investments had nothing to do with the naming of his own company. Instead, he claims he drew his inspiration for his company’s name from the Bible and his daughter, who is also named Ariel.
Although a federal judge found Bray’s reasoning credible, he said it didn’t change the fact that the name of Bray’s company could cause confusion for consumers, especially given the fact that both firms are operating in the same industry.
While Ariel Capital is a small, new firm, located in Florida, that services customers primarily in Florida and Ohio, Ariel Investments is a much larger, 30-year-old company with clients all over the country. Ariel Capital and its attorneys argued that meant Ariel Investments was in no real danger of suffering as a result of the similar name.
But Ariel Investments disagreed, having sent several cease and desist letters to the smaller financial company (as well as up to a dozen other firms) before filing the trademark lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly agreed with Ariel Investments that, because the company works all across the nation, Ariel Capital could conceivably benefit from confused consumers who think they recognize a nationwide name when they decide to hire Ariel Capital. Judge Kennelly maintained such Ariel Capital could conceivably be taking customers away from Ariel Investments, even if it was not Bray’s intention.
To make matters even more confusing, both Ariels provide similar services to similar clients. Both companies offer customized support to customers looking to make smart money investments. As a result, there is significant overlap, not only in the geographical areas they service but in the markets they target.
As a result, Judge Kennelly ruled in favor of Ariel Investments and ordered Ariel Capital to hand over to the larger company any and all items that might infringe on the Ariel trademark, including business cards, stationery, labels, signs, advertisements, and other promotional materials. Ariel Investments would then be responsible for destroying all such evidence of the confusingly similar trademark.
The judge further ordered Ariel Capital to cancel any pending advertisements it might have with that name and to modify its directory listings with third-party directories, such as the Yellow Pages.
Ariel Capital has been ordered to comply with all these instructions ASAP, but Bray has said he has no intention of doing so in the near future. Instead, he has stated he plans to appeal Judge Kennelly’s decision to the Seventh Circuit Court, where he and his attorney believe they have a good chance of getting the district court’s ruling overturned. In the mean time, they don’t believe Ariel Investments will suffer significantly from their continued use of their name, Ariel Capital.
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