On the Locality of Trade Names

You know what’s a good name for a coffehouse? “Brewed Awakening.” Yeah. It implies coffee; it’s suggestive of a morning caffeine hit, and the pun is painfully cutesy.

You know how good a name it is? I’ve been able to find eight separate Brewed Awakenings. They’re in Chicago, Berkeley, Las Vegas, Big Bear Lake (CA), Gig Harbor (WA), Ware (MA), Fort Wayne (IN), and Metuchen (NJ). Great minds pun alike, I suppose.

Their peaceful coexistence — and indeed, their peaceful online coexistence — is a nice illustration of a basic principle of names: the same name can happily be used by lots of people, as long as there’s minimal confusion involved. The law of trade names understands this principle fitfully. “Confusion” is officially part of the doctrine, but, like so many terms in the law, it has a disturbing tendency to slide into fiction under continual pressure applied by self-serving litigants.