Mina, an attorney, is the agent and president of Chicksports Inc., a company whose area of business is still unknown. But Mina has sent letters to restauranteurs in the area advising them that their assumed named on file with the Harris County Clerk had expired, that Chicksports now owned all of those names, and that the restaurants could continue to operate under their monikers as long as they paid $25,000 ($20,000 in some cases).
The letters ended ominously:
"If you have not contacted me by email or phone by August 14, 2009, Chicksports will explore its legal options for your use of the assumed name it now owns or contact other parties interested in owning the reservation of the right to this assumed name."But here's the rub -- the legalities presented in the letter are entirely false, and in the restaurants were in no real danger of losing their names. General counsel of the Texas Restaurant Association, Glen Garey, after hearing about the letter restauranteurs, put an end to the panic setting in amongst the entrepreneurs.
"I was almost shaking I was so mad when I saw that letter," Garey said. "I'm a member of the bar, and it's embarrassing for someone in our profession to do something like that."The lawyer for one of the individual restaurants affected, Jeffrey Horowitz, added: "It looks like a weak attempt to do something like cyber squatting, but the law in Texas is such that -- with trade names and trademarks -- first use usually prevails," Horowitz said. "Why they would send a letter like that ... doesn't make any sense unless they were trying to take advantage of a restaurateur who does not know the law."
He reassured members that the letters carried no weight and posted an alert advising as much on the association's Web site.
"DO NOT PAY ..." Garey wrote in capital letters. "The assumed name statute says clearly that there is no need to file an assumed name if your corporate name is your business name ... ."
There has been no attempt to contact or take action against Mina from Garey and his association.
"I figured any attorney who would do something like that would not be disabused of their plans by a simple phone call," he said.