Pub v. Publisher: A Local Bar in Vogue, England Was Asked to Change Its Name By the Owner of 'Vogue' Magazine
The website for the Star Inn at Vogue in Cornwall, England, reminds its patrons that "it's best to book in advance" for its upcoming All You Can Eat American food dinner. It also low-key promotes its Friday night meat raffle and shares its space with a hair salon called Star Cutz. That's all to say that it's not the kind of place that expects to be at the center of an international legal battle, especially not one that involves an iconic fashion magazine.
Mark Graham, the pub's longtime owner, recently received a letter from publisher Condé Nast, warning him that the Star Inn at Vogue needed to change its name because the public could mistakenly believe that it was affiliated with Vogue magazine. "Our company is the proprietor of the Vogue mark, not only for its world-famous magazine first published in November 1916 but in respect of other goods and services offered to the public by our company," Sabine Vandenbroucke, the chief operating office for Condé Nast, wrote.
"We are concerned that the name which you are using is going to cause problems because as far as the general public is concerned a connection between your business and ours is likely to be inferred."
When Graham pulled that letter out of its envelope, he thought one of the locals was playing a prank on him. "Surely these people can't be serious. In this modern day and age someone couldn't be bothered to go onto Google and see that Vogue is a Cornish hamlet that's been here for hundreds of years," he told Cornwall Live. "It seems common sense has taken a backseat on this one."
He wrote a tongue-in-cheek response to the company, telling them that the tiny town of Vogue had been around for hundreds of years. "I note in your letter that you have only been in existence since 1916 and I presume that at the time when you chose the name Vogue [for the magazine] you didn't seek permission from the villagers of the real Vogue," he wrote. "I also presume that Madonna did not seek your permission to use the word Vogue [...] for her 1990s song of the same name." (Despite the humor, Graham offered a "categoric NO" to the company's request for a name change.)
Whether it was because of Graham's letter or because someone did actually Google it, Condé Nast responded to say… well, not exactly "sorry," but that they wouldn't be pursuing any legal action.
"We were grateful for your response and to learn more about your business in this beautiful part of our country," Christopher P. Donnellan, an attorney for Condé Nast, wrote. "I am sure you will appreciate why we regularly monitor use of the name Vogue, including at Companies House (which is how we were alerted to your company name). However, you are quite correct to note that further research by our team would have identified that we did not need to send such a letter on this occasion."
But Graham may not be finished having a bit of fun at the publisher's expense. "[The local residents] want me to start a parish magazine called 'Vogue magazine,'" he told the Falmouth Packet. "The latest idea is also we want to do a fashion week, 'Vogue fashion week', and get a big letterhead made, and then invite all the major magazines and companies to visit us."
At the very least, this has given everyone something to talk about the pub's American food night.