Serena Nath is an IPilogue Writer and a rising 2L JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Typically, the name “Vogue” evokes the highly popular fashion and lifestyle magazine or the song “Vogue” by Madonna. But the original “Vogue” actually refers to the a village in Cornwall, and named after this village is a pub. However, for Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue the magazine, having a pub called “Vogue” was an issue.
Vogue, the village pub, has existed for approximately 200 years and Vogue, the magazine, has only existed for about 130 years. Yet Condé Nast thought it was appropriate to ask Vogue, the pub, to change its name. In a cease and desist letter sent to the pub at the beginning of May 2022, Conde Nast threated to sue the pub over its name, stating that Condé Nast is the proprietor of the Vogue mark. Condé Nast claimed that the pub’s name could “cause problems” because people may become confused and associate the pub with the magazine. The letter also stated that the pub manager had to reply within seven days, otherwise Condé Nast would take remedial action.
The pub manager, Mark Graham, was not terribly bothered by the letter, and in fact found it “hilariously funny.” In his reply to Condé Nast, Mr. Graham helpfully pointed out that the pub predates the magazine and the village is even older than the pub. Further, when the name “Vogue” was chosen for the magazine, Condé Nast did not seek permission from the village, the “real Vogue” as Mr. Graham states, to use the name. In the end, Condé Nast offered the pub an apology, admitting that Mr. Graham was correct and that they “did not need to send a letter” in this instance.
This case, a clear David versus Goliath situation, illustrates key access to justice issues in intellectual property law, and even more generally, in law as a whole. Although this case ended up in victory for the small pub, before Mr. Graham sent a reply to Condé Nast, he considered submitting a counterclaim. If he had countered the claim, it would have likely been a lengthy battle in which the pub may not have been victorious, despite both the village and pub existing long before the creation of “Vogue” the magazine. Condé Nast clearly has many more resources to help them fight such a battle. This case could have led to several outcomes including, but not limited to, the pub running out of financial resources midway through litigation or the pub feeling pressured into a settlement. Sometimes a non-legal response can be the way to resolve these issues and avoid a costly legal problem for either party.