Thursday, August 18, 2005

Editorial: No laughing matter

Published in the Current

(Aug 18, 2005): There is not a huge amount of difference between “Giggles and Grins” and “Grins and Giggles,” but what difference there is should provide room for two companies to keep their names.

Scarborough businesswoman Kristi Stanley, who owns Giggles and Grins, named after some of her young son’s personality traits, says one name is the reverse of the other and shouldn’t cause a problem.

But, as we see on Page 1, the Gerber baby food company seems to think the two are so confusingly similar that it is demanding Stanley change her business’s name.

There are laws and court rulings about this type of dispute, and lawyers are already involved. But common sense and an innate sense of right and wrong should also be in play: Just because someone is bigger than you doesn’t mean they should get their way.

And in this case, the companies should agree to keep their names. They sell items and product lines that are different enough that customers should be able to keep them straight: If you went to buy a blanket (from Giggles and Grins) and instead selected a shampoo (from Grins and Giggles), you’d figure out your mistake long before getting to the cash register.

Perhaps as a safeguard against future disputes like this, the companies could agree that if either is going to sell products similar to the other’s, it must be done under a different product name. So if Stanley decides to make homemade baby soaps, she would have to find a different name for that group of items.

The Internet is the one place where customers could be easily confused, and might unintentionally visit one company’s site when looking for the other.

Because of the mechanics of Internet searches, someone looking for the words “giggles” and “grins” would find both companies’ sites – as well as countless other sites completely unrelated to any products for babies and young children.

So it seems reasonable that to dispel potential customer confusion, at the top of each company’s Web site should be a line saying it is not the other company’s site, and providing a link to the other site.

That sort of solution is quite common in situations where organizations and companies have similar names and want to mutually avoid confusion, and that’s really where the companies’ negotiations should focus.

New inside

I want to call your attention to two items in this week’s issue that are of particular note: the Religion page, on Page 6, and the local school bus schedules, on Pages 20 and 21.

Both are part of our continuing efforts to be the best newspaper serving this territory, and to better serve you, our readers.

This issue marks the second appearance of the Religion page, which will appear every other week as a venue for news, views and information about our local churches and religious groups. Please send contributions, feedback, story ideas and other comments to me by e-mail at jinglis@keepmecurrent.com, or call me at 883-3533.

This issue also includes the school bus schedules for Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth for the upcoming year. (South Portland’s were not available before press time, but will be posted on our Web site, www.KeepMEcurrent.com, as soon as we get them from the school department.) Scarborough’s, in particular, may cause some concern, because of a new district policy consolidating bus stops. Please let us know what you think of the new routes, again by e-mailing me at jinglis@keepmecurrent.com or by calling 883-3533.

As always, we welcome your comments, feedback and ideas on all aspects of the paper. If you would prefer to write or fax, those addresses are just below this column, on the same page.

Thanks so much for reading the Current! We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Jeff Inglis, editor

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