Duncan Connor is the former social media guy for Atlanta Eats and had been working on a foodie site pointing out restaurants along the BeltLine. For the moment, there’s little more to it than a Google map and some Twitter traffic, although I think he had larger plans … which he’s likely to scrap now.
I’m fascinated. I’ve asked the attorney from Greenberg-Traurig if he had sent letters to other businesses using the term “BeltLine” in marketing materials? Should a restaurant opening on or near the BeltLine be required to seek approval of Atlanta BeltLine Inc. before telling anyone that they’re on the BeltLine? How about other businesses that might naturally associate with the walking trails, like bike shops, sporting goods stores, art galleries and the like?
The law firm hasn’t responded yet. When they get back to me, I’ll update this.
This isn’t the first time the BeltLine folks have made legal threats to stop someone from using the term BeltLine. Two years ago, the BeltLine took Andrew Realty to court over an apparent cybersquatter who locked down URLs like “atlantabeltline.org” to connect to his real estate business. (I spoke briefly to a fellow at Andrew Realty, but he hasn’t gotten back to me.)
While that’s pretty clearly an abuse, I have to wonder about them going after Michael Tavani a few months later. Tavani, a founder of Scoutmob, started a tech incubator called “Beltline & Co.” at Ponce City Market. After he got a C&D letter, he changed the name to Switchyards … and changed the location to a place on Spring Street. (Edit: the PR folks for PCM inform me that Tavani never actually leased property at the market.)
I’m not arguing the BeltLine’s point on trademark infringement with regard to Duncan’s use of the BeltLine logo — that was plainly a mistake. And I understand the need to defend a mark from dilution. I’m just wondering where the natural demarcations may be for use of the term as a matter of economic development, especially since this is a public-private partnership. If businesses become afraid to even mention the name BeltLine for fear of receiving a C&D letter, I have to wonder how positive the public’s associations will be with the project, moving forward.
More to the point: the BeltLine has been pitched as a series of public parks, along with private redevelopment in adjacent areas. The price for this redevelopment appears to be an inability for the public to refer to it without coughing up a check.