A business resource center in Keene announced in a news release Monday that it had won a legal battle against a Vermont app developer over use of the term “localvore.”
Burlington-based Localvore Inc., the company behind the Localvore Passport app, lodged a complaint against the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship in October over the Keene organization’s domain name, www.localvore.com. That address redirects to a website for the Hannah Grimes Marketplace on Main Street, a shop for locally made gifts and treats.
A localvore is someone who strives to eat and buy locally grown and made products.
The complaint was filed with the federal Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy Panel, which resolves disputes over website names. The Vermont company holds trademarks for “Localvore” and “Localvore Today” and requested transfer of ownership of Hannah Grimes’ domain name.
Localvore Inc. offered Hannah Grimes $5,000 for the website name, according to the decision, but the Keene organization answered that it “has not attempted to sell the domain name” to the Vermont company.
According to the Dec. 4 decision, Hannah Grimes argued that it registered the domain name in 2006 — six years before Localvore Inc. launched — and that the organization has had an active localvore presence in the Monadnock Region.
To win in these cases, the complainant must prove three facts, according to the panel’s decision. While Localvore Inc. convinced the one-member panel that the domain name is confusingly similar to its own trademarks, the panel determined that Hannah Grimes used the domain name in good faith, and that it has rights to and legitimate interests in the domain.
“Hannah Grimes has had an active localvore committee since 2006, and we were one of many communities as part of a broader localvore movement that used that term to help promote programs, events and the idea of sourcing food from local entrepreneurs and farmers,” Executive Director Mary Ann Kristiansen wrote in an email to The Sentinel.
The panel noted in its decision that “localvore” is a dictionary word, which typically can’t be trademarked, and “even if they are trademarked they do not create monopoly rights.”
“The findings support that this is a generic term and we hope that it ensures localvores everywhere will be able to continue to use that term,” Kristiansen wrote.
Michael Nedell, co-founder and chief operations officer of Localvore Inc., said this morning that the domain name isn’t really being used, since it redirects to another website.
His company, which he said is the tech partner in the farm-to-table movement, would like to work with Hannah Grimes in a way that allows the domain name to serve as many local producers as possible, he said. Some technology will allow a web address to direct to a certain page in one geographical area, such as Keene, and another website elsewhere, he said.
Nedell alleged, however, that the leadership at Hannah Grimes hasn’t expressed interest in cooperating. He also stressed that his interest is in his company’s ability to help local businesses and not in suppressing people’s use of the word “localvore.”
But Kristiansen disagreed with his characterization. As the panel found, she said this morning, Hannah Grimes had the domain name long before Localvore Inc. came along, and its use is irrelevant.
“We were willing to work with them on things that would help localvores everywhere,” Kristiansen said. “… But I was very clear from the beginning that we did not have an interest in selling something that we own.”