New Jersey entrepreneur beats Saks Fifth Avenue in trademark dogfight
A lawyer for Carrie Sarabella, a 32-year-old small-business owner from Hoboken, argued that the name ‘Snaks 5th Avenchew’ was acceptable under fair-use law
She gave Saks something to chew on.
A New Jersey small-business owner who sells organic doggie treats under the label “Snaks 5th Avenchew” emerged victorious from a trademark dogfight against Saks Fifth Avenue.
The luxury retailer sent Carrie Sarabella, an entrepreneur from Hoboken, a cease-and-desist letter, threatening court action if she kept using her company’s name, as the Daily News exclusively reported in August. But Sarabella, 32, who sells merchandise online and directly to retailers, hired Sam Israel, a copyright lawyer,who fired back with a missive of his own. Israel said he argued the name was acceptable under the so-called fair-use law, which “recognizes that parody marks cause no harm to the established mark.” Israel cited the examples of pet perfume brand Tommy Holedigger and fluffy toys maker Chewy Vuiton — both of which survived federal infringement suits from the companies they spoof, Tommy Hilfiger and Louis Vuitton. Two weeks ago, Israel got a letter from Saks’ lawyers, saying they would not pursue the matter. “I was thrilled,” Sarabella said . “I couldn’t be more excited, relieved and happy.” The Hoboken, N.J. entrepreneur, who sells non-allergenic snacks to canines and horses, received a cease and desist letter charging she’s diluting Saks’ brand.
“They were confronted with the fact that a claim against my client will be specious,” the lawyer said.
A spokeswoman for Saks said, “We continue to protect Saks’ rights and, as always, reserve the right to take further appropriate action.”
Sarabella said she has received support and attention since the growl against her company’s name was publicized. The dialogue with customers even led to an expansion with a subscription service to a monthly delivery of doggie delicacies called SnakBox.
“It’s not something I took lightly,” she said of the potential predicament. “I was trying to expect the best.”