A legal battle for the trademark rights to the very heart of Silicon Valley is under way. Sand Hill Advisors, the Palo Alto wealth management company, is suing Sand Hill Advisors, the commercial real estate company in Los Altos, for trademark infringement. Confusing!
For the three people who are still unaware, Sand Hill Road is the iconic stretch of pavement near which the sainted feet of venture capitalists tread daily to their places of work.
Sand Hill Advisors, the wealth management one, claims it’s been using the mark since 1995 and that its alleged namesake has been profiting off the use of the name since 1999. The complaint (.pdf) was filed by Shartsis Friese lawyers in San Francisco.
Well, Sand Hill Advisors may have picked the wrong Sand Hill Advisors to pick a fight with because Sand Hill Advisors, the commercial real estate one, is NOT GOING TO SETTLE.
Fight! Fight! Remember, folks, absolutely no wagering! Just click for the jump …
Albert Hill, the owner of the latter Sand Hill Advisors has a rather pointed message to the other Sand Hill written, like all the best legal communication, in a Yelp review.
Hill said he was “inspired us to fight this lawsuit to the bitter end” by a lawyer named Kurt Denke, who fought against Monster Cable, which sues anyone and everyone for trademark infringement.
With that fighting spirit, Sand Hill Advisors’ lawyers at K&L Gates filed a vigorous and lengthy motion to dismiss (.pdf) this week. Led by San Francisco IP partner Mike Bettinger, the lawyers argue that Sand Hill Advisors doesn’t even have an enforceable service mark, since the government rejected a trademark application because the name was descriptive of a place. They also say that the two companies are two very different lines of business. The Los Altos Sand Hill manages, leases and buys commercial real estate, while the other one invests people’s money.
And finally, they claim that their Sand Hill Advisors wasn’t even named after the darn road in Menlo Park: It was named after the founders, Bert Sandell and Albert Hill.
“The term “Sand Hill” in Defendant’s business name was derived by combining the first four letters of Mr. Sandell’s last name and Mr. Hill’s last name, “Sand” and “Hill.”
Here at Legal Pad we don’t like to pretend that we know who’s going to win court cases, but I’m going to go out on a limb on this one and predict: Sand Hill Advisors has it in the bag.
— Zusha Elinson