PORTLAND, Maine — A federal judge has ordered The Inn at Brunswick Station to change its name because it’s too similar to that of nearby The Brunswick Inn. Any new name can also not include both the words “Brunswick” and “inn” in the title, the judge said.
The trademark fight between the two inns began in 2012 when Eileen Horner, owner of The Brunswick Inn, sued The Inn at Brunswick Station, claiming that since the latter had opened in June 2011, guests have confused the two and cost her reservations and money. The similar names have even confused the local fire department, which once responded to a cooking fire at the wrong inn, according to court documents.
In March 2012, before filing the lawsuit, Horner had secured the name “The Brunswick Inn” as a state trademark.
After a short trial, a jury in December 2013 awarded Horner $10,000 after determining that The Inn at Brunswick Station’s name infringed on The Brunswick Inn’s trademark.
But it was left to U.S. District Court Justice Nancy Torresen to determine whether JHR Development, owner of The Inn at Brunswick Station, would be forced to change its 52-room inn’s name.
JHR Development is owned by J. Hilary Rockett of Marblehead, Mass. The company teamed with the town of Brunswick to convert long unused downtown tract contaminated by coal ash into a development that includes the inn, a visitor center, restaurants, health clinic and train station for the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail service.
In a judgment filed Tuesday, Torresen determined that JHR Development should be forced to change its name. She wrote that “the evidence suggests that an injunction [against using The Inn at Brunswick Station name] would reduce consumer confusion and thereby serve the public interest.”
She ordered that The Inn at Brunswick Station “permanently cease” using its name no later than April 4, 2014, and that the new name not include both the words “Brunswick” and “inn.” Torresen said the inn could continue to maintain its website, innatbrunswickstation.com, for another year, “but only in a manner that automatically redirects users who enter that domain name into their web browsers to a new non-infringing website with a different non-infringing domain name.”
Frank Gaeta, the attorney representing JHR Development, told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday that he was disappointed with Torresen’s decision, but noted that the injunction “is significantly less restrictive than what the plaintiff requested.”
Horner and The Brunswick Inn had requested that the judge order the defendant to be “forever enjoined” from using the name “The Inn at Brunswick Station,” or any mark similar that uses “Brunswick” or “Inn,” and to destroy within 30 days all materials bearing the “The Inn at Brunswick Station” name.
“Just as we were disappointed with the jury’s verdict, we are disappointed with the judge’s decision to uphold it,” Gaeta wrote in an email to the BDN. “We remain of the view that no one should own the words ‘Brunswick’ and ‘inn.’”
Gaeta said he and his client were still evaluating whether to appeal the decision.