Cafe Hon owner: Trademark Was About Protecting a Business, Not Co-opting a Baltimore Tradition

by Denise Whiting (“Maryland Voices,” The Baltimore Sun, 12/19/2010)

Welcome to my office. Once a supply closet, it’s crammed with tools, merchandise and paraphernalia left over from this summer’s HonFest. I’ve about five cubic feet of space for me, my desk and the finicky computer that helps me run this little gift shop I’ve opened, HONtown. The shop and Café Hon across the street employ 54 good souls. They’re working hard through the holiday rush, though our morale took quite a hit from all the frustration vented last week, on these pages and elsewhere, about our trademarks.

In case you missed it, here’s the controversy in a nutshell: the federal government has granted my business several trademarks associated with the word “,” which means that we enjoy exclusive rights to the sale of certain classes of merchandise and services bearing that word. I exaggerated and mischaracterized the meaning of these trademarks to a few reporters last week, and now, understandably, I stand accused of “stealing” a term of endearment long associated with my native town.

I hear you, Baltimore. Some of you think that I believe I “own” the word “hon.” Well, of course I don’t own it, and I didn’t invent it. But I did name my first restaurant in 1992 “It’s a Café, Hon,” which easily shortened to Café Hon. All my company was trying to do by trademarking specific uses of the word was to protect us from merchandise knock-offs by those who wanted to capitalize on the commercial side of the concept enhancement work we had done. It was not meant to take possession of the word or the culture from the public.

Continue reading “Cafe Hon owner: Trademark Was About Protecting a Business, Not Co-opting a Baltimore Tradition” at The Baltimore Sun.

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