A family-owned business in Bethesda, Maryland, and a multibillion dollar casino complex in Hanover, Maryland, are fighting over who gets to use the word “live” in their name.
The Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in the 7700 block of Wisconsin Avenue was opened four years ago by owner Rick Brown. He envisioned a grand supper club on the scale of the fames Copacabana nightclub and wanted to preserve a landmark that had personal meaning to him and his faily.
“It’s a great opportunity to take a gem and bring it back to life in downtown Bethesda.” Brown says of the former Bethesda Movie Theater building. “My mother graduated from this stage in 1947, and my father was a musician.”
Brown recently settled a lawsuit brought on by one of the co-owners of the club and renewed his lease for another 30 years on the building. After more than 900 concerts and 240,000 customers over four years, he decided to change the name of the business to Bethesda Live, attempting to attract a wider audience and let people know they have more than just blues and jazz acts.
Within days of announcing the name change, Brown got a letter from an attorney representing Maryland Live! Casino, ordering Brown to cease and desist with the name change and threatening legal action if he continued.
The letter said, “Live! Holdings, LLC is the owner of the registered trademark ‘Live!’ and we are writing to object to your company’s contemplated use of ‘Bethesda Live’ in connection with an entertainment facility in Bethesda, Maryland.”
Brown’s lawyer, Chris Foley, a trademark lawyer and partner at Finnegan Law, said the casino is overreaching. However, he said his client could be wiped out financially if he tried to fight the order.
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“Oh, it’s trademark bullying.” Foley said. “I think we’re dealing with a David and Goliath (situation) that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars easily and that’s not fair to him.”
“It is unfair,” Brown said. “Even if we were to fight a lawsuit, it would be very expensive. We just don’t have those resources.”
Brown and Foley said they’ve reached out to Maryland Live! in hopes of negotiation a resolution that would allow Brown to use the Bethesda Live name. They have not been able to reach an agreement.
“We’re in downtown Bethesda.” Brown said, “This isn’t Baltimore. This isn’t Anne Arundel County. I don’t think the citizens of this area would confuse Bethesda Live with Maryland Live! I don’t see that happening.”
Brown remained hopeful that he will be able to use the new name but admitted if push came to shove, it might be one of the most expensive decisions he has ever made.
Dana Alan Gausephol, an attorney for Maryland Live!, declined to talk about the matter, referring to the cease and desist letter sent to Brown.