A Bethesda business owner may not be able to change the name of his music venue to what he wants after a lawyer representing a development company affiliate told him doing so would create ‘unfair competition.’
Dana Alan Gausepohl on behalf of Live! Holdings LLC, an affiliate of Cordish Companies, told Bethesda Blues and Jazz proprietor Rick Brown his client disagreed with Brown’s choice of a new name because it violated a trademark. He said Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club falls in the same market as Maryland Live! Casino the Power Plant Live! venue, among other businesses containing the word that are owned by Live! Holdings LLC, and that using “Live!” in the name was trademark infringement.
He added in a Sept. 20 letter that if Brown did not terminate any use or anticipated use of “ Bethesda Live!” and did not take back all materials containing the name “Bethesda Live!” then Live! Holdings would take action against the Brown and force him to stop.
“If we do not receive a satisfactory response from you within this time period confirming your compliance with these requirements, and you have not stopped using the Accused Mark (Live!) by the date (Oct. 7), be assured we will take all appropriate steps to stop your infringing activities and obtain damages and injunctive relief,” Gausepohl said in a letter. “Your failure to comply with these demands will constitute further evidence of willful infringement.”
Brown said he was not sure whether he would surrender the name he wanted.
“I don’t think citizens in Montgomery County will confuse Bethesda Live with a gambling casino 40 miles away called Maryland Live!,” Brown said, of the venue that’s located 30 miles from Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club.
“We’re a music venue,” he added. “I don’t have gambling at my theater.”
He said he found the current name has restricted both clients and artists from wanting to be involved with Bethesda Blues and Jazz.
“We’ve had many people come to us, ‘We’d love to come to the venue, but I’m not necessarily a fan of blues and jazz,’” Brown said.
Brown opened Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in 2013 and has hosted hundreds of thousands of customers for hundreds of artists, not including private events.
In its first 3 1/2 years, the venue has hosted over 900 artists, held 145 private events and served over 240,000 customers,” according to a news release from the supper club.
Brown said he has hosted musical acts of country, rock, Latin, comedy, salsa, Motown and classical music, in addition to Blues and Jazz.
The Montgomery County Sentinel hosted its annual Sentinel Awards at the supper club in 2015.
Multiple phone messages to Gausepohl were not returned before deadline.
Christopher Foley, an attorney hired by Brown, said he did not think a company could file a complaint on one word. He mentioned another company name contained the accused mark.
“If Maryland Live! really had a case, does that mean they can stop Saturday Night Live?” Foley asked.
Unless Brown changes the name of his venue, Foley said Gausepohl does not have grounds for a complaint.
“(Brown) hasn’t changed the name, so there isn’t a case for controversy yet,” Foley said.
Foley said the cease and desist order over one word was an example of what he called trademark bullying, and he considered the reason for the letter unfounded.
“This is a situation where a company is maintaining that it has a famous mark, and is emphasizing the part of the Live component as being famous,” Foley said. “That I don’t buy.”