Helping people discover great places to visit and eat has grown into a popular business. Websites and apps enjoy promoting the “Best of” a specific location. Village Voice holds trademarks on “Best of San Francisco”, “Best of Seattle", and several other best of cities and has chosen to sue competitor Yelp for using Best of language on its website.
Last year, the Village Voice sued Time Out New York for using “Best of NYC”. Time Out counter-sued claiming “Best of” is generic and should not be able to be trademarked. In April 2012, Village Voice and Time Out reached an undisclosed settlement (registration required).
More and more we are seeing companies and individuals bullying others from using basic language and ideas, both of which defenders of intellectual property will claim can’t be limited by intellectual property. “Best of” is completely generic and has been used in books and magazines for decades. Village Voice, in fact, only registered its trademark “Best of NYC” in 2007. This is a trademark that should never have been approved. And Time Out not fighting the case just goes to show how easy it is to bully even sizeable companies with frivolous IP lawsuits. It will almost always be cheaper to settle than to fight in court. Even if Time Out or Yelp were willing to fight to get the trademark invalidated, its unlikely they could recoup legal fees. Why spend millions just to prevent the company from suing another competitor? If Yelp decides to settle, that just leaves Village Voice armed to sue more magazines, books, and websites. The “Best of” the web, all vulnerable to a company scared of some competition.