Who’s going to fix this? San Antonio handyman battles Ace Hardware over new venture’s name.
Ace is the place to go with the helpful hardware people. Now it wants to be known as a place for craft services too.
That doesn’t go down well with a San Antonio businessman who has been doing repair work under the name Ace Handyman Services for 4½ years.
John Allen’s Ace Handyman Services Inc. this week sued Ace Hardware Corp. for preventing the retailer from using the Ace Handyman Services name in Bexar and the surrounding counties for a new franchise that provides repair, maintenance and improvement services for homes.
“We have earned a reputation for quality work and service,” said Allen, 50, on Thursday. “If Ace Hardware were to use the name ‘Ace’ for the same services that we provide, it would create serious confusion for our existing customers and prospects.”
That would take everyone’s business out of business, adds his suit.
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A representative for Ace Hardware, a co-op owned by a retailer based in Oak Brook, Ill., Said in an email the company is not commenting on pending litigation. The company, with more than 5,300 home improvement stores in 70 countries, achieved sales of 6.1 billion US dollars last year.
Ace Hardware entered the home repairs and enhancement business in September when it acquired Handyman Matters, a Denver-based franchise that manages homeowners’ to-do lists and larger projects. Handyman Matters had 56 franchisees who employed approximately 250 people in 23 states.
According to Allen’s lawsuit, two of the franchisees operate in the San Antonio area. You are also the defendant in his complaint.
At the time of the contract, Ace Hardware announced that it would change its name from Handyman Matters to Ace Handyman Services – the same name as Allen.
The rebranding should be completed this quarter. San Antonio trademark and patent attorney Ted Lee, who represents Allen, said he understood the change will take effect Monday.
Ace Hardware follows in the footsteps of larger competitors and provides repair and home improvement services.
Home Depot and Lowe’s each use independent contractors to provide a range of home services. In its 2018 annual report, Home Depot attributed a surge in demand for installation services to demographic change, including “baby boomer customers who may have been DIY customers in the past but are now looking for someone to complete a project for them”.
Amazon is also opening up the market. The company launched a program in 2015 that connects customers with professionals who can put furniture together, install ceiling fans and replace lights. Online marketplaces like Thumbtack, TaskRabbit, and Handy have also developed a following.
Simultaneously with the filing of the lawsuit, Allen’s attorneys received an injunction against Ace Hardware and the San Antonio franchisees on Monday. They are prohibited from using the Ace Handyman Services brand in Bexar and seven adjacent counties by order of District Judge Norma Gonzales in San Antonio.
The judge issued an “ex parte” order, which meant Ace Hardware attorneys were not present to argue against it. An injunction hearing is scheduled for next week.
The lawsuit also seeks unspecified actual and criminal damage.
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Lee said that using the word “Ace” in connection with a home repair and improvement business would be an issue due to Allen’s on-site use.
“We have no right to prevent someone from using ‘Ace’ for all sorts of things,” added Lee. “But when they come into our trading area with the same name and the same services that we offer, there is a problem.”
The lawsuit describes Allen as a disabled veteran. He served in the Marine Corps from 1988 to 1991. He suffered a neck injury during air rifle training in a helicopter and was subsequently discharged as a result of the injury, he said. A bulging disc causes nerve problems in his neck and arms, and he routinely suffers from migraine headaches, he said.
Allen’s business has one employee and three contractors.
After Ace Hardware acquired Handyman Matters, it filed five trademark registrations with the intent to use Ace Handyman Services and other names.
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About three weeks ago, the lawsuit said, Allen was visiting one of Handyman Matters’ local franchises. A representative said he contacted Handyman Matters corporate headquarters to inform them that an Ace Handyman Services was already operating in San Antonio.
The representative was told not to worry. Handyman Matter would handle it, ”says the suit.
Allen’s claims in the lawsuit relate to trademark infringement and unfair competition.
Madison Iszler contributed to this report.
Patrick Danner is a San Antonio-based associate who deals with banking and civil courts. Read it on our free mySA.com website and on our ExpressNews.com subscriber page. | [email protected] | Twitter: @AlamoPD