Myrtle Beach Area Chamber steps into dispute over business trademark

01/29/2014 12:03 PM

01/29/2014 12:05 PM

Months after Myrtle Beach Hotels owner David Hucks complained to competitor Brittain Resort Management about the unauthorized use of his company’s trademarked name, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce filed a petition with the federal government to have Hucks’ trademark canceled.

Hucks – whose resort marketing group Myrtle Beach Hotels LLC was founded in 2009 and incorporated in 2012 – sent a cease-and-desist letter to Brittain Resort Management last fall after learning that company’s call center was using the Myrtle Beach Hotels name when answering telephone inquiries from vacationers.

“As we are legally Myrtle Beach Hotels, we simply asked that [they] honor the laws of this state and cease answering [their] phones that way,” Hucks told The Sun News. Hucks said Brittain Resort Management continues to use his company’s name when answering call center inquiries.

Matthew Brittain, president of Brittain Resort Management, did not respond to a request for comments by presstime. Brittain Resort Management owns the Internet domain. Hucks said he asked the management company to answer its phones with the “dot-com” moniker but the company refused.

In its petition, the chamber states that it “believes it will be damaged” by the existence of the Myrtle Beach Hotels trademark. The chamber states that it has long used the term “Myrtle Beach hotels” to promote the Grand Strand and the term is so generic that it cannot by trademarked.

Hucks said he was surprised to learn this month that the chamber had filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to have his Myrtle Beach Hotels trademark canceled. Hucks told The Sun News that he believes the petition is in retaliation for the cease-and-desist letter he sent to the chamber’s largest member. Monty Morrow, regional director of operations for Brittain Resort Management, is a member of the chamber’s board of directors.

“This is a measure where a large private corporation, Brittain Resort Management, is hiding behind the unlimited tax resources of a chamber of commerce to do its legal bidding,” Hucks said..

Brad Dean, president of the chamber of commerce, did not respond to a request for comments by presstime. The chamber has hired the Nexsen Pruet LLC law firm in Greenville to represent it in the matter.

It is not clear how much money the chamber is paying in legal fees to challenge Hucks’ right to trademark his company’s name. David Slough, a spokesman for Dean, said no public money is being used.

The chamber – a nonprofit agency whose stated purpose is to promote the Grand Strand “for the benefit of all area businesses” – received the bulk of its $36.6 million in revenues from public funds including a Myrtle Beach tourism tax during 2012, the most recent tax return available.

Hucks said he intends to fight the chamber’s petition. He must file an answer to the chamber’s allegations by Feb. 23 and the case could go to trial next year, according to trademark office documents.

There are about four dozen active trademarks with “Myrtle Beach” in their name, according to an online database maintained by the federal trademark office. Those trademarks include names similar to Myrtle Beach Hotels, such as Myrtle Beach Trips and Myrtle Beach Key Attractions owned by Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. and Myrtle Beach Vacation Rentals owned by Elliott Realty.

Brittain Resort Management has more than 10,000 vacation rental units at more than a dozen hotels and resorts along the Grand Strand. The Brittain family’s Myrtle Beach National Co., in partnership with Burroughs & Chapin Golf Management, also owns or manages about two dozen golf courses and books about 60 percent of all tee times along the Grand Strand.

Myrtle Beach Hotels manages and markets about a half-dozen area resorts.

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