A trademark dispute expected to play out in federal court pits a small Bonaire business against a major national company.
Vice Media, which has corporate offices in Brooklyn, New York, and in Montreal, Canada, is seeking an injunction in federal court in Macon against Virtue Marketing, a marketing and advertising company operating at 509 Hialeah Drive in Bonaire.
In 2006, Vice Media created Virtue Worldwide, its in-house advertising and marketing agency that operates nationwide. Two of its Georgia clients have been AT&T and Coca-Cola.
Vice Media filed a trademark infringement lawsuit May 29 against Virtue Marketing and Tylie Eaves, its chief operation officer and founder.
The lawsuit claims that Vice Media owns all rights, title and interest in its trademark Virtue and accuses Eaves of misappropriating and exploiting “the goodwill and unique reputation of the Virtue name and mark.”
Eaves said she’d never even heard of Virtue Worldwide until she started receiving threatening letters demanding that she abandon her company name because of the alleged trademark violation.
“It came out of nowhere,” Eaves said. “I definitely wasn’t prepared for it. I had no idea that they existed, let alone that any part of that company shared a moniker with my own.”
She added, “I’m certainly not a threat to their $500 million dollar company.”
Eaves plans to fight the media giant in court.
“I have received your letter concerning my company’s service mark, and I am writing to inform you that, according to my legal advisor, my company is well within its rights to pursue and use the mark, Virtue Marketing,” Eaves wrote in an email to an attorney for Vice Media.
“The company you represent does not have a registered trademark, which means they do not own the entire right, title and interest in and to the trademark Virtue as indicated in your letter. ... I have built my entire company and several subsidiaries on the Virtue Marketing brand and currently have no plans to rebrand,” Eaves stated.
According to documents filed in federal court in relation to the dispute, Vice Media has a pending U.S. Trademark Application for the Virtue worldwide trademark that was filed March 14, 2014 -- about eight years after Vice Media says it formed Virtue Worldwide. Eaves filed a trademark application for Virtue Marketing LLC on Jan. 27, 2015 -- about three years after she says she formed her company.
Vice Media initially sent Eaves letters as early as Jan. 16, 2015, ordering that she immediately cease and desist from use of the Virtue trademark.
Her company’s business website -- www.virtue-marketing.com -- remained active Thursday and continued to advertise its products, such as a $307 coaching, planning and strategy session with Eaves; a $47 one-hour web rescue, and a $2,007 session for medicine-related marketing.
A formal response to the lawsuit on Eaves’ behalf had not been filed in federal court as of Thursday. Anuj Desai, one of the attorneys representing Vice Media and Virtue Worldwide, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.