(FranchisePick.com) A while back I asked for nominations for companies to be considered as Top New Franchises. Several franchisees of Monster Mini Golf wrote to praise their franchisor (Read: Franchisees Are So Happy, It’s Scary). I also heard from a number of customers who raved about the indoor miniature golf concept. I called the founder, Christina Vitagliano of Providence, Rhode Island, and found her to be a caring, enthusiastic person interested in seeing her franchisees succeed.
Unfortunately, the little firm got nailed with a trademark infringement suit by the Monster Cable company while trying to attain a Federal Trademark Registration. The Consumerist reported earlier this year that how lawsuit-happy Monster Cable company had been trying to block the mini-golf chain from using their name since 2006… since the public obviously can’t discern between a haunted house-themed mini-golf attraction and an overpriced cable.
To be fair, maintaining a strong trademark protection requires companies to aggressively defend against any and all potential infringers… an endeavor with many grey areas. Luckily, a public outcry and negative backlash against Monster Cable prompted the founder of Monster Cable to send the lawyers out of the room and talk directly with Christina and her husband… after which he decided not only to drop the suit, but to pay all their legal fees and expenses. Here’s part of Christina’s website post:
First of all, we can now register our trademark, Monster Mini Golf! Secondly, Monster Cable (or more importantly, Noel) has agreed to compensate us for legal fees. And last but not least…there is NO gag order on this whole ordeal!! I think that as some companies grow everything becomes about everything else, except the humans involved. Once in a while, we need to be reminded.
We all have the ability to make our own choices. Even though he stepped outside of this battle until recently, Mr. Lee chose to allow it to happen. I do want to state that Mr. Lee, did not legally HAVE to do anything at this point. He did not have to step up to the plate, he could have gone on fighting this but it was his choice to step in. He, not his attorneys, chose to make these new decisions and well, to put it simply, that’s big!
For us, this entire ordeal has been about trademarks. While this thing has taken on a life of its own, and the world has voiced its opinions on all things MC, including the MC product line and pricing, it was only ever about trademarks for us.
Patrick and I could not have done any of this without you, the general public and we can’t thank you enough. Please feel free to email or call with any questions. Noel’s letter is below ours.
Here’s the letter Noel Lee sent:
Christina and Patrick,
On behalf of everyone who has been involved in the trademark disagreement between our two companies, let me say that we are glad to have come to an amicable meeting of the minds. I personally want to apologize to all for not having been directly involved in this dispute, and not have taken the opportunity to meet and talk to the both of you to understand the entire situation.
It’s amazing what happens when people talk without the filter of attorneys speaking for us. In our talks, I found the both of you to be very reasonable people that are easy to talk to, understand, and resolve our differences of opinion with.
Through the many emails and communications on line, clearly we have been made out to be the bad guy. It’s unfortunate some people feel this way, because we really feel the opposite. But as they say words are cheap and so with that in mind…
We will drop any opposition to the trademark of Monster Min Golf, as well as the lawsuit that we filed against you. In addition, we will cover your attorney’s fees so you are not burdened with them as you go forward in pursuing your business.
I will say that this is a landmark kind of situation, as public opinion wins over what is the right thing to do for trademark protection of a famous mark. We have made the decision that public opinion, and that of our valued customers is more important than the letter of the law that requires us to prevent the dilution of our mark risk losing it.
I’ve also learned that attorneys sometimes miss the human element of a situation, and that the law is the law, and frankly that are paid to interpret it for us as business people who are not as knowledgeable in these areas. It was a pleasure to be able to speak to both of you personally, and to understand each other as people, entrepreneurs, all in the same boat, working hard to grow and develop our businesses and provide value for our customers.
Although we can’t unwind the clock and we agree to disagree on some of the actions taken by both parties, there’s a lot of water under the bridge. Like everyone today, we have continued challenging economic times ahead of us. It’s time to focus on our businesses, our employees and their families and prepare for the times ahead.
I wish the best of luck to Monster Mini Golf in the future .
Founder, Monster Cable
Nice job, Noel. Great to see a company leader acting like one.
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Tags: Christina Vitagliano, dispute, franchise, infringement, lawsuit, monster cable, MONSTER MINI GOLF, Patrick Vitagliano, sean kelly, trademark