BRUNSWICK, Maine — A dispute over the names of two inns in downtown Brunswick boiled over into U.S. District Court recently when the owners of the Brunswick Inn sued the owners of the Inn at Brunswick Station.
The suit, which was filed March 29, demands that JHR Development LLC change the name of the Inn at Brunswick Station on Noble Street, which opened in June 2011 as part of a larger development on a parcel known locally as Brunswick Maine Street Station. Just a few hundred yards away on Park Row, the owners of The Brunswick Inn, a company called 165 Park Row Inc., say their business is suffering financially as a result of confusion among customers visiting Brunswick.
The Brunswick Inn — whose lineage dates to 2007 when it was called The Brunswick Inn on Park Row — is located in an 1848-era Federal-style home. The company began using the name The Brunswick Inn in 2009. The Inn at Brunswick Station, which opened in June 2011, was built as part of the Maine Street Station development, which also includes a train station, restaurants and retail establishments.
“There’s been all sorts of confusion,” said James Goggin, an attorney for the Portland-based law firm Verrill Dana LLP, who is representing James and Eileen Hornor, who own The Brunswick Inn. “People recognize the name as being associated with The Brunswick Inn. People showing up at the wrong place, that doesn’t help anybody. If people come and have a bad experience, they’re not going to want to come back to Brunswick. It’s a very important issue, obviously. ”
J. Hilary Rockett Jr., who owns JHR Development, said Tuesday that the lawsuit is without merit.
“The suit is completely baseless,” he said. “We have every right to call the hotel the Inn at Brunswick Station. We’re very confident that the court will agree with us.”
Rockett said he is not personally involved in the Inn at Brunswick Station’s day-to-day operations but acknowledged that he has heard of instances of customers trying to check in at the wrong location. However, he doesn’t see that as sufficient reason to change the name of his company’s inn.
“We’ll let the courts decide,” he said.
JHR Development has until April 23 to respond to the suit within a 21-day statutory time frame, according to Goggin, who has advised the Hornors not to talk to the media. Aside from confused customers, the complaint says that vendors and emergency responders also have been confused “repeatedly” as to which inn is which.
The owners of The Brunswick Inn requested through an attorney in September 2011 that JHR Development change the name of its inn, but JHR refused on the grounds that “The Brunswick Inn” is a simple reference to the inn’s location and not likely to cause confusion, according to the complaint. The complaint cites Maine trademark and dilution statutes and federal and state unfair competition laws as the basis for the suit.
The Brunswick Inn is asking the court to put the matter to a jury trial and force the Inn at Brunswick Station to change its name and pay “enhanced damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.” Goggin said Monday he did not know how much money his clients were seeking from JHR Development.
“That’s standard boilerplate for a complaint,” he said of the financial demands. “We can show that we have lost business, but our primary focus is to have them change their name.”