The Olde Farm in Bristol, Va., is seeking undetermined monetary damages against The Olde Tennessean GC in Bristol, Tenn., which is located six miles away, claiming the defendants “intentionally” selected a similar name that has likely caused confusion and deceives customers. The Olde Tennessean has operated for nearly 120 years, but changed its name from Country Club of Bristol in November.
A golf course dispute is moving from the links to a federal courtroom after The Olde Farm in Bristol, Va., filed a complaint over trademark issues against The Olde Tennessean Golf Club of Bristol, Tenn., the Bristol, Va.-based Herald Courier reported.
The United Company, which owns The Olde Farm, filed the federal suit last week in U.S. District Court in Greeneville, Tenn., against Bristol Preservation LLC, The Olde Tennessean and Integrity Golf Company LLC. According to The United Company, the suit lists the concerns as trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution and false designation of origin arising under Section 43 of the Trademark Act of 1946, the Herald Courier reported.
“In short, this is a legal matter that is being handled by our attorneys at Baker Donelson,” said Martin Kent, president and CEO of The United Company. “Our primary intent and obligation to The Olde Farm is to protect its name and reputation, which has been developed over many years through the hard work and investment of the United Company, its owner and employees, and our valued members.”
The Olde Farm was established in 1999, according to the suit, and has operated as one of the “most highly acclaimed private golf clubs in the United States.” The club is on the site of an 18th century farm. The United Company notes in the suit that the golf club has many famous members, including two former U.S. presidents, industry leaders and current and former professional athletes, the Herald Courier reported.
“Commencing at least as early as 1999, Plaintiff has used the “THE OLDE FARM” mark continually nationwide in interstate commerce to identify certain of its services and to distinguish such services from those offered and sold by others,” the suit states. The United Company also is the owner of a U.S. trademark registration, covering the standard character mark “THE OLDE FARM,” the suit states.
The Tennessee golf club, owned by Mitch Walters, Roscoe Bowman and Tim Carter, was established in early July. The three local businessmen, using the name Bristol Preservation LLC, purchased the Country Club of Bristol, which is located less than six miles from The Olde Farm. The suit states that the Country Club of Bristol had existed for nearly 120 years and has operated under the same name for several decades. The businessmen announced at a July news conference that Integrity Golf Co. of Florida would operate the club, the Herald Courier reported.
“We are actually talking about rebranding the course and that includes changing the name,” Integrity CEO Gene Garrote told the Herald Courier in July. “We want to make sure the name fits what we are trying to accomplish here, which is for us to preserve the history of the course while creating a new history for it in the community. But no matter what the name of the course is, we want it to survive and to thrive.”
Garrote’s quote is mentioned in the lawsuit. The Tennessee course operated as the Country Club of Bristol through October. An announcement was then made on Facebook that the club was changing its name to The Olde Tennessean, the Herald Courier reported.
The United Company says the defendants, without permission, are using trade names and word marks that include the phrase “OLDE” in connection with the golf club. The suit states that the Tennessee golf club “intentionally” selected a similar name as The Olde Farm. It adds that this has likely caused confusion and deceives consumers. The United Company is seeking undetermined monetary damages in the case, the Herald Courier reported.
“The United Company is concerned about the name The Olde Tennessean,” said Walters, one of the co-owners of the Tennessee club. “Obviously, Bristol Preservation LLC leases the golf course to Integrity Golf, a golf course management company out of Florida, and they wanted to change the name.”
Walters said he believes Integrity chose a “really great name,” adding that it is the oldest country club in Tennessee, the Herald Courier reported.
“Apparently, The United Company, Jim McGlothin or The Olde Farm doesn’t like that for whatever reason but it’s really up to Integrity Golf as to how they want to handle this,” Walters said. “Bristol Preservation LLC is very proud of the fact that we kept the golf course here and we just want to make sure that it adds value to the area.”
Inquiries by the Herald Courier to Integrity were not answered last week.