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What's in a name? Including a city name in a trademark

The trademark process is complicated, but when the trademark itself includes a city name, it can take on an even greater level of complexity. Entrepreneurs Brad and Sandy Smith decided they were ready to take advantage of yet another business opportunity in their small community – the potential to reinvigorate a historical food staple in southwestern Indiana. They also realized that it would be of utmost importance to protect their long-time company name: Tell City Pretzels.

Protecting years of business

Many people outside of the Smiths’ corner of the world were already familiar with their newly acquired company when they purchased it. After all, it can be hard to remain unknown after a century of business. The Smiths, with the guidance of the intellectual property attorneys at Bingham Greenebaum Doll, began a multifaceted approach to securing evidence showing the history of the hand-twisted pretzel business in southern Indiana and its tie to the community of Tell City by obtaining affidavits and other evidence of the brand’s 150-year-old pretzel tradition.

The famous Tell City Pretzels were born in 1858 when Casper Gloor, a master baker from Switzerland, settled in Tell City as a member of the Swiss Colonization Society. Gloor gave life to these salty snacks, but the name pretzel fans now recognize took root around 1911 when Alex Kessler, who had worked with Gloor for 17 years, opened his own business dedicated solely to the production of the famous pretzels.

What’s in a name?
Clearly, removing the “Tell City” from “Tell City Pretzels” would have effectively altered – and possibly lost – the company’s identity with its growing, global fan base. After approximately a year of effort and the legal team working with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Smiths were awarded a registration for their Tell City Pretzels trademark on April 12, 2011. This trademark has been increasingly important as the Smiths have expanded their marketing efforts through Facebook, Twitter and across the Internet to continue to broaden the demand for their brand beyond the borders of Indiana.

The company had fallen on hard times prior to the Smiths’ ownership. After passing through the hands of several owners over the last 30 years, a small company factory and its antiquated equipment had recently been closed down. The Smiths enlisted a team of our attorneys to help them through the process of reorganizing the company, identifying the assets needed to operate the pretzel factory going forward, securing leases and the release of some prior liens, and sifting through ownership rights. However, getting the trademark work off the ground was the foremost challenge facing the company, and with the trademark registration now secured, Tell City Pretzels can be sure their brand will be identified for what their fans hope will be another century of creating crunchy, salty pretzels.

  • Partner

    William is a partner in the Indianapolis office and serves as the Business Services Department Co-Chair. He has extensive experience in the areas of environmental law, corporate law and real estate, zoning and planning, and land ...



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