What’s in a name? | PostIndependent.com

What’s in a name?

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

How much does it cost to keep your name? For Jay Mencimer, it was $300,000.

After four years building an air duct cleaning business, the road to success became more than a little bumpy for Mencimer, owner of Max Vac, the day he received an unhappy letter in the mail last spring demanding he change his business’ name.

Mencimer had recently expanded Max Vac Air Duct Cleaning, Inc. all over Colorado, from Grand Junction to Denver. With the help of his printing business, he printed up professional glossy flyers with local phone numbers in cities throughout the Western Slope.

“Everyone thinks we’re a franchise, part of a national company,” said Mencimer, who grew up in Aspen. “Our marketing from day one was to make ourselves look like a big company.”

Despite the wide range of his business, Mencimer’s only offices are in Glenwood and Denver. For customers in the mountains, he dispatches vacuum trucks all over the Western Slope from his Glenwood headquarters.

Two weeks after he opened an office in Denver and advertised a phone number with a (303) area code, he received a cease and desist letter in the mail. It demanded that Mencimer stop using the name Max Vac, claiming Chicago-based industrial vacuum manufacturer DeMarco Max Vac already own the rights to that name, which, they said, has a national trademark.

DeMarco Max Vac apparently is not in the duct vacuuming business, according to its Web site, http://www.maxvac.com.

“Somebody thought we had a lot of money,” Mencimer said, adding that he had registered the name for use in Colorado. “No way we were hurting his business.”

Mencimer’s lawyer argued that he ought to be able to keep the name because neither company shares the same customer base or channels of trade. But DeMarco Max Vac used the name first, Mencimer said.

“They offered that we keep the name if we give them $300,000,” he said. That was enough to prompt him to change the name to Mr. Vac in August, a move that cost Mencimer at least $22,000 and a bit of customer recognition.

Trademarking a name is complicated business. Try not to get lost in all this: According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site, DeMarco owns the trademark to “Max Vac” ” but so do two other companies.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Alcon Laboratories owns the trademark to the one-word name “MaxVac.” The other, Crostex International of Hauppauge, N.Y., owns the trademark to the two-word name “Max Vac.” Both of these trademarks refer to devices used in medicine.

Then there’s “Max-Vac,” once owned by the Imperial-Eastman corporation. The patent office considers that trademark, registered in 1974, dead.

DeMarco has a trademark on “Max Vac” (two words), “DeMarco Max Vac” and “DeMarco Max Vac Corporation.”

Mencimer speculated that Alcon and Crostex may have paid DeMarco what they asked and were allowed to keep the name.

When asked about DeMarco Max Vac’s insistence that Mencimer change his business’ name, company Vice-President Christine DeMarco said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, I have no idea who you are,” and added that she does not comment on “personal matters” with those she does not know. She immediately hung up the phone.

Mencimer said that if he had decided to challenge DeMarco Max Vac in court, it could have cost him $100,000 and kept him in court for three years.

“It’s not worth it,” he said. “It’s just a name. Once I got my ego out of the way, it’s not that big a deal.”

But it was tough to find a new name, he said. After searching multiple variations of his original name, he finally settled on Mr. Vac Air Duct and Carpet Cleaning.

He said he doesn’t know if the name change will hurt business, but he assured Max Vac customers after the changeover that the business hasn’t changed, only the name.

“We’re still a viable business doing the same thing,” Mencimer said. “We had to change the name for legal reasons.”

Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520


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