A smoldering dispute between two Colorado marijuana tourism businesses flared up last week when a pot-friendly bed and breakfast operator sued an accommodation search site for allegedly copying its name and ripping off its logo design.
Joel Schneider, CEO of Bud+Breakfast’s parent company The MaryJane Group, sued Boulder-based Taste of Travel in Denver District Court for alleged trademark infringement.
Schneider claims that Taste of Travel, which owns the domain name www.budandbreakfast.com, launched the site and aimed to capitalize on the press and exposure that Bud+Breakfast earned for its pot-friendly accommodations around Colorado. Taste of Travel’s website is a search service for cannabis-friendly hotels and property rentals.
“It’s about the brand. It’s about fair play. It’s about not stepping on each other’s toes,” Schneider said. “People could go on his website and think they’re booking with us. It’s something we needed to address.”
Bud+Breakfast opened its first pot-centric hotel in Denver in April 2014, followed by locations in Silverthorne in October 2014 and Colorado Springs in July 2015. Its lawsuit says that Taste of Travel, which had owned the domain name for years, declined to sell it to Bud+Breakfast. The suit also says that after Bud+Breakfast got up and running, Taste of Travel launched its website with a similar logo and social media accounts to benefit from Bud+Breakfast’s success.
The complaint alleges that Taste of Travel “adopted the confusingly similar name ‘Bud and Breakfast’ with actual knowledge of the MaryJane Group’s trademark Bud+Breakfast and with intent to deceive customers, siphon business away from the MaryJane Group and benefit from the goodwill the MaryJane Group has earned for its trademark.”
Bud+Breakfast’s current website is www.budandbfast.com. Taste of Travel founder Sean Roby said the lawsuit stems from his decision not to sell his domain name.
“We’ve had the domain ‘budandbreakfast.com’ since 2001,” Roby said. “They offered to buy it at one point, and we decided to do our own thing. Basically, they just want our domain name. We’ve tried to be cordial and now we’re willing to go the distance.”
Roby sent Bud+Breakfast a cease and desist letter in mid-September 2014, demanding that Bud+Breakfast stop using its trademark, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed Friday, requests the court ban Taste of Travel from using the name “Bud and Breakfast,” and any logo similar to Bud+Breakfast’s or “any other name confusingly similar to Plaintiff’s Bud+Breakfast.”
Bud+Breakfast first tried to buy the domain name in March of 2014, according to the suit.
In January of this year, Taste of Travel launched a functioning website under the domain name, the first time that domain went live since Roby registered it in 2001. The logo consists of a pipe and coffee cup and the text “Bud and Breakfast” – a design similar to Bud+Breakfast, the suit claims. Taste of Travel then registered that trademark with the state.
Shortly after, Bud+Breakfast filed its own trademarks with Colorado’s Secretary of State.
Around this time, the company “experienced a decline in bookings,” which it attributed to confusing websites, according the complaint.
Roby is calling the lawsuit bunk, and he said he’ll end up on top.
“All the lawyers that I talk to think they’re really stretching it here,” Roby said. “Every lawyer I talk to says we could be suing them for using the term ‘Bud and Breakfast.’ We feel really confident.”
Schneider, meanwhile, is adamant about defending his business.
“We’re trying to protect our brand,” he said. “I don’t like lawsuits, but speaking to our marketing team, we thought it was necessary. It’s not something we take lightly, but when you’re in my space and you’re playing with my brand, something has to be done.”
Michael Mihm and Thomas Neville with the firm Ogborn Mihm filed the case for Bud+Breakfast.