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.

Seriously?

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.)

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  • Michael L

    Hi Lisa,
    Could you clarify one thing in your article, please.
    What state is Hanes Hummus registered in? As I believe each state only allows one name per state.
    Maybe even the whole federal system also.

    • lchris

      It’s a Canadian company

      • Michael L

        So doesn’t the US have trade agreements with Co.’s from other countries.
        Or not. Hmm.
        Sounds like a copy right disagreement to me.

  • Francisco Morfi

    We can contribute hy not contributing. Hanes will get no more business from me, I will not purchase another of their products until I find out that they retreat their lawsuit against Hanes Humus.

  • Antje Fesl

    Hi, Lisa! You gave a wonderful contribution here! Thank you! I will support local businesses over here in Germany from now on!

  • Kristen

    In New Zealand our business trading names are not meant to be used by anyone else as the IRD/IRS only allows one business with each name, but a new business has been set up less than two hours drive away using the same shop name as mine, doing exactly the same thing. 4 suppliers have advised me of it, and there is nothing I can do about it short of trademarking the name but there are 4 other shops online in other countries with the same name so this is not possible. I don’t even want to know if it is one of my customers, but as an optimist I will just hope he has a good website and his customers will assume we are a chain so come into my store if they live closer. Or else try to take the domain name even though I do not want a website to block him this way.

    At least Hanes Hummus are getting great free publicity from it all, and it can only damage the reputation and consumer base of the underwear brand. Small businesses thrive and love these types of big guy v small guy situations in the media – no matter the legal findings, the public will always support the little guy with their wallets and morals and someone will step up and pay any legal costs they may incur.

    • Michael L

      Sorry to hear Kristen, that the domain laws in your country are not very cooperative.

      • Kristen

        Thanks. We breed em tough down here so it’s a non issue. And it’s summer so it would take a tsunami to even ruffle a feather! Even better still, our Government goes on holiday for a month so we even have news on TV rather than politicians bickering. Its all good!