I was going through an employee database of names for a particular company and I noticed there were a number of employees with Disney as a last name (the company wasn’t actually disney btw). Now Disney isn’t a particular common last name and it’s pretty much only identified with one company really.
If any one of those people wanted to go out and use their last name in a business they started i.e. Disney’s furniture store, Disney auto repairs etc. would they run into any trouble from the big Disney company? it is their last name though.
IANA trademark expert, but I believe that the general test is: Will a use of the name cause a likelihood of confusion with the other name?
If a particular use of “Disney” (which I would argue almost all uses would) would cause people to think that your furniture or auto parts store is affiliated or connected with the larger company, then it wouldn’t be allowed.
Last name has nothing to do with it. If my name is Justin McDonald, I can’t open McDonald’s Hamburgers, my last name notwithstanding. If I opened McDonald’s Hardware Store, nobody would confuse it with the restaurant, so I would likely be okay.
Wikipedia doesn’t have details and the link doesn’t work, but there’s a case where someone named Ronald McDonald opened a “McDonald’s Family Restaurant” in Illinois. Wiki only says the chain lost the lawsuit, but IIRC the Ronald McDonald company was only allowed to use the name in a very small, local area.
OTOH, there was the Bully Hill Winery; owner and founder Walter Taylor was prohibited from putting his own name on his bottles to avoid confusion with Taylor Wines, which was owned by Coca-Cola…
Walter was part of the same family that founded Taylor Wines and Coke went after him full bore. He blotted his name from the bottles as he fought it, but eventually lost. However, the publicity from the suit made Bully Hill a big success.
As far as I remenber Disney is a Norman-French name — although some people insisted Walt was Portuguese — so there may be a lot of D’Isneys etc. in France who should be able to use the name so long as they don’t sell cartoons etc…
McDonalds seems demented in trying not only to preserve that name for itself — which is difficult in Scotland — but in going further and claiming godlike omnipotence over the prefix ‘Mc’ or ‘Mac’. I can’t imagine why. Especially since any Scotsman could tell you that one Mac is not the same as any other Mac.
I’ve written about the Taylor Wines vs. Walter Taylor many times on this Board. They’re a Hammondsport NY winery on the Finger Lakes that makes great wine from local grapes (and imported grapes), but their product is not overly sweet or “foxy”. You can get some of their wines in New England and New Jersey, but most of their varieties aren’t sold outside of New York
Taylor did NOT put his name prominently on the labels, which said “Bully Hill Wines”, the name of the company – his name, Walter S. Taylor, was in the small print at the bottom. There was no way that anyone would have confused Bully Hill wines with the Coca Cola-owned Taylor Wines, but they took him to court over it anyway.
Coca Cola won the ruling (or they settled – I don’t know the details), but Walter protested by replacing the “Taylor” on his label with a black bar, as if censored, and added a note explaining how legal decisions prevent him from using his family name. He also started painting labels (Walter painted his own wine labels) that showed him with a cyclopean eye in the middle of his forehead. So Coke took him back to court, claiming that he was making a mockery of the ruling. He was, of course, but I don’t think there’s a law against that.
Finally, whether for legal reasons, or to avoid the harassment of lawsuits, Walter backed down, took off the black bar and the Cyclops. But he made the clever legal maneuver of having the road his winery was on named after his father – Greyton H. Taylor. This let them legitimately put the Taylor name back on the label, and there wasn’t a damned thing Coke could do about it.
He also painted a new set of labels for wines called “Goat White” and “Goat Red”, each with a picture of a goat on them, sticking out its tongue. Underneath it read “They may have got my name, but they didn’t get my goat.”
One famous example of two businesses that have operated with the same last name for over a hundred years with quite a bit of confusion is Hershey’s Chocolate and Hershey’s Ice Cream. Both companies were founded in the late 1800’s in Lancaster, Pennsylvania by people named Hershey, who were not related.