Highlands Ranch: Trademark or Town!
Today we filed a cancellation action with the United States Patent and Trademark Office concerning the mark "HIGHLANDS RANCH" registered by Shea Homes.
Our client, Brian Petrelli, is a realtor who for four years has listed homes on his website, www.myhighlandsranch.com. Never once did Shea Homes, the master developer of the community of about 90,000 complain that the domain was violating its mark. Further, all of the signs into the community, the name on the post office and the signs in all the parks fail to provide any indication that the phrase "Highlands Ranch" is a trademark.
Some intriguing questions: Can a master developer own the name of a town it was instrumental in creating? (Actually, Highlands Ranch isn't a town but I would venture to say between 70-90% of residents in the Denver Metro area would identify it as such.) Is the name of a community which has been in wide use as such for over 25 years, a generic geographic descriptor incapable of acquiring secondary meaning and as such be held as a Trademark? Can a non-governmental entity prevent businesses and organizations operating within a community from indicating their association with a community?
We believe these are especially important questions considering the popularity in the last decade or so of planned unincorporated communities.
You are invited to follow this important saga as it will be chronicled in this Blog and at our client's website, www.FreeTheRanch.com. And please feel free to leave comments here or on Brian's site. We would love to hear the public's take on this.