NASHUA, NH — When Tony Adams was getting set to open a downtown business eight years ago, he had a name in mind for his gourmet and specialty food store.
After some simple research, he discovered two people in Philadelphia owned the rights to that other name, at least to a web domain.
“I walked away from it, because it was the right thing to do,” Adams said.
So he went with his second choice, Cooking Matters, the current name for his 97 Main St. store that includes a breakfast and lunch counter.
Adams wishes a national nonprofit organization had a similar concern for not usurping a name when it changed the name of one of its programs last fall.
Share our Strength is a program dedicated to ending childhood hunger. One of the programs under its umbrella teaches parents how to cook nutritious meals.
That program changed its name from Operation Frontline to Cooking Matters, the same as the Nashua store.
Adams’ concern about the name change intensified after the national program Cooking Matters, in partnership with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, did a presentation recently at Dr. Crisp Elementary School.
“First let me preface my comments by saying that I have no disagreement with the mission of this organization,” Adams said in an e-mail to The Telegraph.
“But what this organization has done is quite simply business identity theft,” he said.
Customers have confused his store with the nonprofit, and after reading The Telegraph article about the Dr. Crisp presentation, have asked about signing up for the classes the program offers, Adams said,
Adams’ Cooking Matters store is registered in New Hampshire as a limited liability company, he said. Adams owns the domain cookingmatters.com, and the store has a presence on Facebook, he said.
He hired an attorney, Andrew Cernota of Vern Maine and Associates, to represent his business.
The Nashua firm specializes in intellectual property law, such as trademarks and trade names, copyrights and trade secrets, Cernota said.
On behalf of the store, Cernota sent Share Our Strength a letter “letting them know that we exist,” Cernota said.
No litigation has been filed, he said.
“We want to contact them and work out some way where both groups can coexist. We’re trying to settle it amicably,” Cernota said.
The Nashua Cooking Matters doesn’t want to stop the national program from doing business in New Hampshire, he said.
But the organization was causing confusion for Adams’ customers “and that was a potential problem for us,” Cernota said.
“It’s really a matter of clarity rather than wanting to make this into a big deal,” he said.
Dave Slater, communications director for Share our Strength, declined to comment, saying it’s an issue for the organization’s legal staff.
Adams said the national Cooking Matters program apparently felt that non-exclusivity doesn’t apply because the two entities are in different arenas, a nonprofit educational program vs. a commercial business.
“They didn’t think there would be any confusion in the marketplace,” Adams said.
“There’s a lot of back-and-forth. The bottom line is, these people have a lot of financial resources behind them, and I don’t.”
Cooking Matters is sponsored by the ConAgra Foods Foundation and supported by the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Adams said he’s only “trying to protect my own turf.” “If they happened to rename their organization ‘Apple,’ you can rest assured Steve Jobs would be all over them,” Adams said.
Copyright (c) 2011, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.