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Even at Grassroots Level Trademark Disputes Can Get Ugly

According to the news from Domain Forum of China on April 28th,trademark disputes and bad blood just don’t happen on the big corporate stage. It happens at the grassroots level where people tend to romanticize that everything is done on a purer footing.

Mike stumbled across an article in the LA Times, the story is about a lady who tried to help others and later one of the first people she helped took the trademark of the mentor while she was recovering from illness.

From the article:

Mama, a charismatic woman with colorful Mexican dresses and braided hair, became an anchor in the neighborhood, and her cafe was ground zero for activists, academics, politicians and police who were pushing to improve the area.

Today, Romero lives just blocks away, but won’t go near the little restaurant with the blue awning. She hardly looks in that direction, just across the street from the park. She’s also careful to never use the Mama’s Hot Tamales name — on her Facebook, email or business card.

If she does, she says, Rocio Ramirez, one of the many women she mentored over the years, could hit her with a lawsuit.

“It was abandoned for so long that anyone — you, me, a neighbor, another business — could have taken it,” she said.

The story of the two women began when Romero came to MacArthur Park from Pasadena in 1998.

She and her business partner, Joe Colletti, launched the Institute for Urban Research and Development to help impoverished areas.

In 2011, a decade after launching Mama’s, Romero was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. She wanted to spend more time with her family, so reluctantly, she decided to close the program.

She and Colletti transferred the lease of the cafe space to her top student: Ramirez.

They made one request: Please operate under a different name. Ramirez chose Mama’s International Tamales.

“At the time, we weren’t sure what the future held,” Romero said.

She had no plans to return to the cafe, but the Mama’s Hot Tamales name had wide recognition and she and Colletti wanted to reserve it for potential use in other projects. That included selling products in grocery stories.

During her recovery, Romero said, she had little contact with Ramirez other than stopping by the restaurant one day to remove all of her framed awards and recognitions. She also removed a giant mural featuring the Mama’s logo.

Then, last fall, she received a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney representing Ramirez. Another letter came in December. The notices demanded that Romero stay away from the name Mama’s Hot Tamales.

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