A federal jury has awarded The Brunswick Inn a $10,000 judgment after finding that the Inn at Brunswick Station had adopted a name so similar, it led to customer confusion.
The jury’s verdict came Wednesday after a three-day trial, and left a key question unanswered: Is the name infringement serious enough that the Inn at Brunswick Station has to change its name?
Lawyers for both Brunswick establishments are now required to submit written arguments on that question to Judge Nancy Torresen, who presided over the trial in U.S. District Court in Portland, for a decision sometime after Dec. 31.
“The Brunswick Inn is excited about this outcome,” said attorney James Goggin of Portland law firm Verrill Dana LLP, who represented the owner of The Brunswick Inn. “More importantly, this verdict is a win for consumers, as it will clear up confusion among tourists and visitors to this beautiful town.”
Attorney Frank Gaeta of Boston firm Rich May, P.C., who represented the Inn at Brunswick Station, saw the verdict as mixed, with the bigger question yet to be decided.
“The jury found the infringement is not willful. My client didn’t take the name (the Inn at Brunswick Station) with the intention of any trademark infringement,” said Gaeta. “The Brunswick Inn wasn’t entitled to any of my client’s profits. They were seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Gaeta said the Inn at Brunswick Station was disappointed that the jury found any infringement and demanded $10,000 in damages, but that the reason his client went to trial was to keep its name, which says “what it is and where it is.”
After The Inn at Brunswick Station opened in June 2011, the similarity in the names led some out-of-town visitors to make reservations at the wrong establishment, or arrive at the wrong place. Vendors have made deliveries to the wrong inn. On one occasion, the naming even confounded the Brunswick Fire Department, which responded to a fire alarm at the wrong hotel.
Both inns are located within walking distance of Brunswick’s Bowdoin College, a draw for many guests who stay at each inn. But the two have vastly different styles that appeal to different customers.
The Brunswick Inn operates in a historic 1848 Federal-style house on the town’s stately Park Row. It has been in operation as an inn since 1984, and under its current name since 2007. It has 16 rooms in three buildings, which owner Eileen Horner and a staff of 12 have run since she bought the business in 2009. Guests can sit next to a fireplace in overstuffed chairs in the living rooms, or on the porch overlooking the local farmers market in the park. Horner referred questions about the lawsuit to Goggin.
The Inn at Brunswick Station, located just up the hill at the intersection of Noble and Maine streets, is newly constructed, with 48 guest rooms and four spacious suites. It has a full-service restaurant and tavern, as well as an event space that can accommodate up to 150 guests, according to its website.
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