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  • Writer's picturePeter Lamont, Esq.

A Gavel for the Ghostly: Lizzie Borden's Legacy Stirs Modern Day Trademark Infringement Legal Brew

In the quaint town of Fall River, where whispers of Lizzie Borden's eerie past linger, a modern-day legal drama unfolds. Nestled beside the historical Lizzie Borden House, Miss Lizzie’s Coffee brewed up a storm this summer, boasting itself as "the most haunted coffee shop in America." Yet, this spectral claim rattled chains at the U.S. Ghost Adventures, the owner of the Lizzie Borden House, prompting a legal duel over ghostly trademarks.

Trademark Infringement

The Lawsuit

The bone of contention? A restraining order to halt the coffee shop from allegedly haunting the Borden legacy. As the lawsuit percolated through the judicial system, the courtroom became the new battleground for Fall River’s ghostly lore.

Allegations from U.S. Ghost Adventures were stern; they accused Miss Lizzie’s Coffee and its owner, Joe Pereira, of phantasmal foul play. By embroidering its business with the Borden narrative, they claimed, the coffee shop brewed confusion among the public, blurring the lines between modern-day caffeine haunts and historical horror.

The Decision

Yet, on a chilly October morning, the gavel fell in favor of the coffee haunt. U.S. District Court Judge Leo Sorokin saw through the ghostly veil, denying the restraining order. The judge's brewed verdict? A limited chance for the lawsuit's success, allowing Miss Lizzie’s Coffee to keep pouring its ghostly brews next to the haunting grounds of Lizzie Borden's legacy.

With each cup served, the coffee shop not only stirs a dark roast but also Fall River’s historical narrative, ensuring that the spectral past of Lizzie Borden continues to echo through the cobblestone streets, one sip at a time.

The Judge's Order

In his decision, Judge Sorokin underscored the necessity to evaluate the likelihood of the coffee shop causing confusion among prospective patrons. The hatchet emblem employed by Miss Lizzie's Coffee markedly diverges from the trademarked hatchet of U.S. Ghost Adventures. Furthermore, the use of the name "Lizzie" in reference to Borden doesn't seem to infringe upon the ghost tour company's trademark of the full name "Lizzie Borden" in the realm of hotel and restaurant services.

Judge Sorokin highlighted, “Here, Miss Lizzie’s mark associates its business with the historical tale of Lizzie Borden, not the mark 'Lizzie Borden.' ... While Ghost Adventures possesses an 'incontestable' trademark in 'Lizzie Borden' and its hatchet, Miss Lizzie’s neither employs the mark 'Lizzie Borden' nor the Ghost Adventures hatchet."

In providing a largely different service, Miss Lizzie's Coffee continues to brew its narrative, merging the historical with the contemporary, as the legal echoes of Lizzie Borden’s legacy resonate through the town of Fall River.

How Do Courts Analyze Trademark Infringement Claims?

When courts are tasked with determining whether an activity constitutes infringing use in trademark cases, a multi-faceted analysis is deployed to ensure a fair and just ruling. The crux of this analysis often hinges on the likelihood of confusion among the consuming public, which is a cornerstone of trademark law.

  1. Likelihood of Confusion: Courts scrutinize whether an average consumer is likely to be confused about the source of the goods or services in question, often by comparing the similarities in appearance, sound, connotation, and commercial impression between the contested marks.

  2. Strength of the Mark: The distinctiveness and recognition of the mark in the marketplace play a crucial role. Courts are inclined to provide broader protection to marks that are fanciful, arbitrary, or suggestive, as opposed to generic or descriptive marks.

  3. Proximity of the Goods or Services: An examination of how closely related the goods or services are to one another is conducted. The closer they are, the higher the likelihood of confusion.

  4. Evidence of Actual Confusion: Courts also consider any evidence of actual confusion among consumers. Though not requisite, such evidence can significantly bolster a trademark infringement claim.

  5. Marketing Channels: Overlapping marketing channels can increase the likelihood of confusion. Courts assess the similarities in advertising, branding, and sales tactics.

  6. Intent: The alleged infringer’s intent in selecting the mark is another pivotal factor. Malicious intent to capitalize on the established mark’s goodwill can weigh heavily against the alleged infringer.

  7. Likelihood of Expansion: Courts gauge the likelihood of expansion in product lines or services, which might encroach on the other party’s market.

  8. Sophistication of Consumers: A higher degree of consumer sophistication may lower the likelihood of confusion, as more discerning consumers are less likely to be misled.

These are some of the detailed ways the courts look into trademark disputes, carefully going through the legal, business, and historical aspects to come to a decision that stands strong with trademark laws and looks out for the interests of all parties to the litigation.

Do you have questions about the legal issues discussed in this post? If so, contact us today at our Bergen County Office. Call Us at (201) 904-2211 or email Us at


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As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state, as certain rules differ in other states.



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