Half Price Books lawsuit doubles as PR plan

DALLAS: Heavy use of publicity makes Half Price Books' filing of a federal trademark-infringement lawsuit against Barnes & Noble (B&N) seem as much a public relations strategy as a legal maneuver.

DALLAS: Heavy use of publicity makes Half Price Books' filing of a federal trademark-infringement lawsuit against Barnes & Noble (B&N) seem as much a public relations strategy as a legal maneuver.

The privately owned chain of new-and-used bookstores sued the world's largest bookseller in late November after B&N refused to stop using the term "Half-Price Books" on its website, which it adopted in the spring.

Dallas-based Half Price Books hired a local firm, Michael A. Burns & Associates, to provide litigation PR support. The company widely distributed a press release announcing the suit, and posted court pleadings and a letter from its CEO on its website, halfpricebooks.com.

"The confusion caused by Barnes & Noble.com's use of our name has been significant and is increasing," CEO Sharon Anderson Wright wrote. Thinking the two companies had merged or become affiliated, some customers have tried to use B&N gift cards at Half Price Books, she explained.

B&N confined its public response to a written statement. It claimed "half-price books" is a descriptive term, and that using it doesn't infringe on its competitor's officially trademarked name, "Half Price Books, Records, Magazines."

"We have used this descriptive phrase on our site since April 2002, and therefore question the merits and intentions of a fourth-quarter request for an injunction," B&N stated.

Half Price Books is among many used-book vendors that sell their products through Amazon.com, but it is not affiliated with Barnes & Noble or its website. The company publicized the suit to emphasize that point with holiday shoppers.

Half Price Books is seeking financial damages as a litigation strategy, but plans to donate any proceeds from the lawsuit to the literacy and environmental charities its supports, Thompson added.

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