Last night, as I was walking home from work, I noticed that a Lowe’s home improvement store (http://www.lowes.com/) had opened on the northeast corner of 68th and Broadway, directly across from the Loews movie theater (https://www.amctheatres.com/movie-theatres/new-york-city/amc-loews-lincoln-square-13), which occupies the southeast corner. There are two large signs, one for LOWE’S and the other for LOEWS, no more than 50 feet from each other. It looks so odd – especially to a trademark lawyer like me, who spends much of each workday advising clients about the risks of adopting confusingly similar trademarks.
The LOWE’S / LOEWS face-off offers a good lesson about trademarks.
In many cases, businesses can own identical, or phonetically identical, trademarks, so long as they are in use with unrelated products and services. Here, LOWE’S is registered to LF, LLC for retail outlet store services. A similar mark, LOWES FOODS is registered to Lowe’s Food Stores, Inc. for grocery stores.
LOEWS is registered to Loews Cineplex Theatres, Inc. for movie theater services. The identical mark, LOEWS, is registered to a different party, Lowes Hotels, Inc., for hotel services.
If a trademark is not famous (famous marks are afforded a heightened degree of protection), then it is possible for multiple parties to adopt the same or similar marks, so long as they are used for different products and services, and/or so long as the respective trademark owners consent to co-existence.
LOWE’S and LOWES have lived together for many years, apparently without problem. Even still, it is odd to have the marquees for the brands in such close proximity with each other – I’m sure some eyebrows will be raised, and some folks will be waiting for their friends on the wrong corner.
I can’t end this post without typing (and singing as I type): “Thank you for coming to Loews. Sit back and relax. Enjoy the show!”