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Macabre Result Avoided in Mortician Domain Name Case

If a court won’t let you use your own name, you might feel like you’re a mere ghost of your former self. That happened to Ed Kalis of Broward County, Florida. In a recent case, Florida’s court of appeal considered whether a trial court’s order against Kalis, enjoining him from using his own last name in various means of advertising and in the URL for his company’s website, was proper.

The appellate court held that the injunction was overkill.

For many years, Kalis worked for Kalis Funeral Home, which his father started in 1959. The family sold the business in 1994, but the funeral home kept the Kalis name, and Kalis stayed on staff. In 2004, Kalis left and moved 100 yards down the street to start up a new “funeral, burial, cremation and mortuarial business.” The name for the new business was a dead ringer of the old one: Ed Kalis Memorial Services.

So you can see the problem here. The owner of the old funeral home was rightfully concerned that people were going to be confused when they saw two very similar businesses with very similar names just down the street from one another. So they filed suit. 

Kalis changed the name of his new business to Edwards Cremation & Funeral Services, but the old funeral home still had a bone to pick. The old funeral home asked the court to stop Ed Kalis from listing himself as the licensed director of his new business on signs, in the Yellow Pages, and in the URL for his website.

The court’s opinion is only two pages, so there’s just a skeleton of analysis. It determined that the lower court had abused its discretion in prohibiting Kalis from using his actual name in connection with advertising and in the URL. That prohibition was overbroad.

So it sounds like the injunction was hardly the death knell for Kalis’s new enterprise.

Ed Kalis Memorial Servs., LLC v. McIntee Holdings, LLC,—- So.2d——, 2006 WL 1627131 (Fla.App. 4 Dist., June 14, 2006).

By Evan D. Brown, Attorney

Evan focuses on technology and intellectual property law. He maintains a law & technology focused blog called Internet Cases and is a Domain Name Panelist with the World Intellectual Property Organization deciding cases under the UDRP.

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