Continuing Hontroversy

Cafe Hon Owner Whiting Apologizes to Baltimore

By Ryan Sharrow (Baltimore Business Journal, 1/19/2011)

Denise Whiting apologized on Wednesday for stirring controversy regarding the usage of “Hon.”

Cafe Hon owner Denise Whiting apologized to Baltimore on Wednesday for allowing people to think her trademarking of the word “Hon,” meant they could no longer use the word freely.

Many people were upset — and some even protested outside Whiting’s Cafe Hon in Hampden — to show their displeasure to her what they felt was Whiting’s highjacking of a favorite city word. Hon is short for “honey” and is used frequently as a term of endearment.

Whiting hopes to end the controversy with her statement on Wednesday.

“There has been a lot said based on misinformation and people have formed opinions based on this information,” Whiting’s attorney, Ned T. Himmelrich of Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander LLC, said in an interview Wednesday morning. “She wants to be clear her original statement was broader than it should’ve been.”

Continue reading at “Cafe Hon Owner Whiting Apologizes to Baltimore” at The Baltimore Business Journal.

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Letter Demanded Shop Stop Using ‘Hon’
Letter from Cafe Hon lawyer told shop not to use trademarked term. But it was one of only two Denise Whiting ever sent.

By Adam Bednar and Doug Donovan (North Baltimore Patch, 1/19/2011)

Denise Whiting, owner of Cafe Hon, has been quoted by WBAL radio as saying that she does not want to sue anyone over her trademark of the word “Hon.”

“Do I have a ton of money to sue people? No, I do not,” she said in the interview. “Do I want to do that kind of thing in my life? I don’t want to spend my time doing that.”

In an apology she released yesterday, Whiting points out that she only twice sent letters to people demanding that they stop using the word. Whiting quotes Baltimore trademark attorney Ned T. Himmelrich as saying the Cafe Hon owner’s actions over the past two decades reflect that she has exercised her trademark rights responsibly.

“In 19 years of using her mark, she has only written two demand letters. When you consider how often Baltimoreans use the word, and how many businesses use it for other products and services, it becomes evident that she has been a responsible trademark holder,” Himmelrich is quoted in the press release.

In October 2005 her attorney, Kathryn Goldman, sent a letter to the owners of a now-defunct Towson store called “Thanks, Hon,” demanding that they stop using the word. At the time, Whiting had not applied for her Cafe Hon trademark to be expanded to cover retail gift shops, a step she took the following year.

“We request that you immediately cease and desist from any use of the term ‘HON’ in connection with all use, advertisements, listings, promotions and marketing of your services,” reads the letter, a copy of which is attached to this story.

The letter demanded the gift shop change its name and abandon any “confusing” Internet domain names or risk legal action.

“Under applicable law, your continued use of ‘HON’ would constitute trademark infringement as well as unfair competition and palming off of the rights of Café Hon,” the letter states.

Continue reading “Letter Demanded Shop Stop Using ‘Hon'” at North Baltimore Patch.

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Denise Whiting’s Statement:

Baltimore, MD, January 19, 2011 – Denise Whiting, owner of Café Hon, Hon Bar and HONtown, and founder of HonFest, apologizes to the City of Baltimore and its residents for statements she made to the media last month that have resulted in widespread confusion and frustration among the Baltimore public. Ms. Whiting’s controversial statements concerned the word “Hon,” a commonly used Baltimore term of endearment (short for “Honey”) for which Café Hon holds limited commercial trademark rights.

“I apologize to everyone in Baltimore for misspeaking. Many of my fellow citizens are clearly upset and worried that our trademark position means they can’t use the word as they wish,” Ms. Whiting said. “I’m sorry for creating the impression that I can stop people from using the word, and for causing such an outcry here.”

Ms. Whiting continued: “No one can own a word or stop people from saying it or using it, but I know that some things I said to reporters have many people thinking that I do ‘own’ it – or at least think I do. That’s simply not the case.  I know that my trademark is limited in scope and I have failed to convey that in recent comments to the media.”

Café Hon filed its first trademark registration in 1992 to protect its rights to its name for restaurant services. After many years selling merchandise using the word “Hon,” Café Hon filed for and received trademark protection for the word “Hon,” relating to the specific products and services it offers. Its trademark does not extend into uses beyond what it sells, nor does it extend into any publicly spoken use of the word.

Ms. Whiting, a Baltimore native and graduate of the University of Baltimore, first opened Café Hon on “The Avenue” in Hampden in 1992 as a Baltimore-themed diner and shop selling stationary products, clothing and other merchandise. In 1994 she created the Baltimore’s Best Hon Contest, which two years later became HonFest, the annual Hampden street festival known for attracting droves of Baltimoreans and others in beehive hairdos, cat’s-eye glasses and feather boas. HonFest annually draws tens of thousands of people to Hampden. In 2010, Ms. Whiting opened HONtown, a store specializing in kitschy, Hon-themed merchandise and Baltimore-centered souvenirs.

Ms. Whiting pledges to be a responsible trademark holder and exercise her trademark rights only to the extent that there would be brand confusion if she were to act otherwise.

According to Baltimore trademark attorney Ned T. Himmelrich, though Ms. Whiting’s comments last month were overreaching, her actions over the past two decades reflect that she has exercised her trademark rights responsibly thus far.

“In 19 years of using her mark, she has only written two demand letters. When you consider how often Baltimoreans use the word, and how many businesses use it for other products and services, it becomes evident that she has been a responsible trademark holder,” Mr. Himmelrich said.

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