Underwear giant gives small business a swift kick in the shorts
What do undershirts, boxer shorts, and athletic socks have to do with chickpeas, lemon, and garlic? Still thinking? Scratching your head? Yeah, me too. And so is small business owner, Yohannes Petros, founder and owner of Hanes Hummus, an emerging Canadian company which makes and distributes hummus to local food stores, and who is being threatened with a lawsuit by underwear manufacturer Hanesbrand, Inc., for trademark violation.
Petros’ growing business was born out of a delicious hummus recipe, a passion to pursue his dream, and the support of his local community. Naming the business “Hanes Hummus” seemed only logical and fitting to the man whose life-long nickname has been “Hanes.”
A cease and desist letter sent to Yohannes Petros from Hanesbrand’s attorney, Richard S. Donnell warned Petros, “The mark HANES HUMMUS is essentially identical and confusingly similar to the HANES mark. Your client’s mark incorporates the distinctive HANES mark in its entirety and the mere addition of the generic wording HUMMUS does not distinguish the marks.”
But Yohannes is not backing down to the boxer short baron’s request to immediately destroy all materials containing the words “Hanes Hummus” and is preparing to stand up to the oppressive and bully tactics of this multi-billion dollar corporation.
How many more mom-and-pop businesses and companies are going to be squeezed out by huge corporations with deep pockets and well-paid attorneys at their disposal? Most fledgling local businesses such as Petros’, with a staff of four, do not have the wherewithal or resources to face off to a company this powerful and many are confronted with the harsh reality of closing their doors in these situations.
So how do we combat corporate greed? How do we create a more even playing field when the rules, as they are currently structured, are designed to make sure one side always wins?
By talking about it, by spreading the word, and by supporting our local businesses. We can use our voices to educate and inform. We can use our dollars to make conscious choices and declarations of who we are. We can say no to the covetous corporations who undercut and overpower the creativity and spirit of the neighborhood dreamers and doers.
How much is enough? How much is too much? Is there truly enough to go around?
Maybe I am just simply missing something here. Perhaps Yohannes Petros’ small hummus business will cripple the highly successful undershirt maker with his tasty healthy treat. I guess it is possible that the name “Hanes Hummus” might confuse and derail the average consumer who visits their local department store looking for a comfortable bra into mistakenly purchasing some delicious hummus instead.
Does Hanesbrand, Inc., a company whose own press release anticipated net sales at $4.6 billion for 2013, have cause to be worried by the “Hanes Hummus” or the “Hanes Plumbing” or the “Hanes Pet Grooming” entrepreneurs of the world? Will they suddenly be forced to pay Michael Jordan only a small fraction of his multi-million dollar contract to promote their briefs? Will Hanesbrand CEO Richard Noll, who recently sold 30,000 shares of Hanesbrand stock for $2,064,000.00, be unable to survive on his remaining 621,163 shares in the company, valued at approximately $42,736,014?
When will we, as a society, stop supporting gigantic corporations with our money, big businesses who function from a place of greed and who engage in these arm-twisting techniques, just so we can save a buck or two?
(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation and lives in Orlando, Florida. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)