Lizzie Borden’s Hometown Museum Apparently Settles TM Suit, But the Boston Globe Report is Very Confusing

In which I take a few whacks at lousy IP law reporting: Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Mandy Webster had come all the way from Pennsylvania to visit the house where Lizzie Borden once lived, and she was not about to go home empty-handed. After touring the three-story clapboard house, the site of one of the most sensational homicides in American history, she hit the gift shop with purpose and vigor.

A coffee mug with Borden’s infamous image, to start. A $20 bobblehead Lizzie doll, of course. Finally, an “Everything I Need To Know About Anger Management I Learned From Lizzie Borden’’ T-shirt. The finishing stroke.

Webster, a 34-year-old who became fascinated with the accused ax-murderer as a preteen and today has a cat named after her, was not stocking up on any old souvenirs. These were exclusively trademarked tchotchkes, patented merchandise of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, which in a marketing coup has just landed the rights to the Lizzie Borden name and her black-humored brand.

The B&B, a popular downtown tourist attraction that draws up to 150 visitors a day, pursued the merchandising license from the US Patent and Trademark Office after a legal dispute last year with a Salem shop called The True Story of Lizzie Borden, which in a settlement agreed to change its name to the 40 Whacks Museum.

Owners said they hope it will dissuade competitors looking to capitalize on the unabated interest in the case, which enthralls historians, ghost-hunters, law students, and fans of the macabre.

“We wanted to protect our franchise,’’ said Lee-ann Wilber, who has co-owned the museum since 2004. “We want to keep the name and Lizzie Borden merchandise local, so people know they are buying something that comes from Fall River.’’

The trademark prohibits others from selling merchandise with the name Lizzie Borden, and allows the museum to pursue legal action to halt those that do. Wilber said that while she was pleased to have received the designation, she does not expect to immediately pursue companies using the name.

Webster and the several dozen others who toured the 19th-century Greek revival house early yesterday afternoon shared a morbid fixation on the wealthy 32-year-old spinster and the mystery that shrouds the unsolved 1892 slayings of her father and stepmother. Borden was cleared of the crime after a highly publicized trial, but has endured in folklore as a cold-blooded killer who “took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks.’’

Wilber scrambled yesterday to keep pace with a heavy midday rush, which included visitors from Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and other far-flung locales. Most were visiting the Boston area for the week, but had always wanted to see the site of the legendary slayings.

Patented merchandise? The B&B “in a marketing coup has just landed the rights to the Lizzie Borden name and her black-humored brand” and “pursued the merchandising license from the US Patent and Trademark Office after a legal dispute last year with a Salem shop called The True Story of Lizzie Borden, which in a settlement agreed to change its name to the 40 Whacks Museum”? I don’t think so.

A search of “Lizzie Borden” at the USPTO trademark database shows three Lizze Borden trademarks are live and registered, the first in 1997:

Word Mark LIZZIE BORDEN
Goods and Services IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: hotel and restaurant services. FIRST USE: 19960804. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19960804
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 75117196
Filing Date June 11, 1996
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1B
Published for Opposition December 31, 1996
Registration Number 2070882
Registration Date June 10, 1997
Owner (REGISTRANT) Smart Advertising, Inc. CORPORATION MASSACHUSETTS 228-234 Second Street Fall River MASSACHUSETTS 02721

(LAST LISTED OWNER) LIZZIE BORDEN BED & BREAKFAST, LLC LTD LIAB CO DELAWARE 230 SECOND STREET FALL RIVER MASSACHUSETTS 02721
Assignment Recorded ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Attorney of Record KAREN L. FEISTHAMEL
Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). SECTION 8(10-YR) 20061217.
Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 20061217
Other Data The name “LIZZIE BORDEN” is the name of a deceased individual.
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

A second registration, “Lizzie Borden Museum” issued in 2002. In 2008 “Lizzie Borden” was successfully registered for “key chains, cups, mugs, tops, hats and caps.” The mark holder then apparently filed an infringement suit against a competing Borden-exploiting entity. And now, the suit seems to have settled. Is that so difficult to explain correctly? Sheesh.