Seacrets, Again In Control Of Name, Ready To Franchise

Monday, November 14, 2011

Seacrets owner Leighton Moore says he's glad to "have his name back" after winning a lengthy trademark infringement battle against a travel destination company.

A U.S. District Court jury of seven ruled in favor of O.C. Seacrets Inc. in a civil suit accusing the Coryn Group Inc., of purposefully capitalizing on the established nightclub's name recognition when it gave the name "Secrets" to nine Caribbean resort destinations.

"These guys were infringing on my name and I wanted to get them to stop," said Moore. "They wouldn't, and now they have to." It was a quirky verdict: The jury awarded $1 to Seacrets, along with about $265,000 in punitive damages.

Moore said he was more interested in stopping the infringement than from scoring a large payoff in the process.

Since the resort destinations are not in the United States, the ruling doesn't legally force name changes. However, it does prohibit Coryn Group from advertising to potential vacationers in the U.S.

Moore said he believes more than 85 percent of the destinations' customers come from the United States, and not being able to advertise in the country would make it counter-productive to keep their current names.

Moore and his company have been embattled with the Coryn Group since 2004, when Seacrets petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel Coryn's "Secrets" trademark -- registered in 2003 -- because the closeness in names could cause confusion among potential patrons.

The fracas escalated to an infringement and unfair competition claim in 2008 by Seacrets, which cited Maryland common law.

The U.S. District Court trial concluded with the jury's decision, favoring Seacrets over Secrets.

Now that the matter is out of the way, Moore says he can focus energy on franchising Seacrets -- and negotiating a possible partnership deal with the Cordish Company, owner of restaurant and entertainment destination Power Plant Live! in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Moore said there have been talks between the companies, but they had been stagnant because of the trial.

"We couldn't enter into anything until this trial, because they're astute enough to know the name's important," Moore said.

"We don't have any acceptable deal right now, but at least we're able to continue working toward the deal, whereas before the infringement was spoiling it." Since announcing its intent to franchise in early 2011, Seacrets has dealt with 185 inquiries from potential franchisees.

Moore said franchise disclosure packets are now done, and they're "ready to franchise."

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