HALIFAX – A national chain of men’s barber shops is backing down in its dispute with an independent operator in Nova Scotia.
Tommy Gun’s Original Barbershop says it “sincerely apologizes” for a cease-and-desist letter sent to Thong Luong, the owner of Tommy’s Barber Shop in north-end Dartmouth.
Luong says he received the letter alleging trademark infringement earlier this month, but that he had no intention of complying.
He says he received offers from three lawyers to take his case pro bono, and a Nova Scotia cabinet minister also spoke out on his behalf.
Service Nova Scotia Minister Geoff MacLellan told reporters he didn’t see how the name of a small barber shop could confuse customers or depreciate the national chain’s brand.
Tommy Gun’s backed down Thursday evening through a statement posted on Twitter, wishing Luong “every success in the future.”
“Now that we have all of the relevant information, we do not intend to pursue this matter any further,” the chain’s statement read.
“Mr. Luong is well within his legal rights to use his name for his barbershop.”
Luong, a father of three who immigrated to Canada from Vietnam as a teenager in 1984, said earlier Thursday that he was “proud” of his shop.
“Every time my kids go shopping with me, and they see someone call me ‘Hi Tommy’ they’re so proud and they said ‘Dad, everybody like you. I never see a person who don’t like you.'”
MacLellan said there are no issues as far as the province is concerned — Tommy’s Barber Shop is registered with Nova Scotia’s Registry of Joint Stocks and is “completely compliant.”
The minister said he understands the “reputable” national chain — which has two shops in the Halifax area — might feel it needs to keep its brand equity strong.
But he thinks there is room for both businesses, and he hoped they can work things out.
“What Tommy Gun’s offers in terms of the consistency of the layout, the products, the services, it’s very different than what you would see at an independent barber,” said MacLellan.
After finishing high school, Luong said he worked 90 hours a week, washing dishes and fixing jewelry until he opened his own barbershop in 2003, six years before Tommy Gun’s Original Barbershop registered its trademark.
Luong said T.G. Corporate Holdings Limited initially gave him until May 22 to change his business name and register a new name with the government.
— With files from Fadila Chater and Keith Doucette