Cable television's Home Shopping Network is finding imitation neither flattering nor sincere.
The innovator of couch-potato shopping says that a number of fledgling companies have tried to take advantage of its popularity, success and good name.
International Home Shoppers Club, At Home Shopping Network, Home Shopping Center and National Home Shoppers all have lost court battles with the original company, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Now, Home Shopping Network Inc., which is based in St. Petersburg, Fla., is trying to wrest its mark from a company that was incorporated in Maryland and lists its address as 1498-M Reisterstown Road in Baltimore.
The Maryland company's name? Home Shopping Network Inc.
"They didn't stumble upon the name," Ruffin B. Cordell, an attorney for the original Home Shopping Network, said from the Washington law office of Baker & McKenzie. "They're trying to use the name for their own advantage."
The original Home Shopping Network is using lawyers in Washington and the Baltimore firm of Venable Baetjer & Howard in its suit against the company to which it refers, for legal purposes, as Home Shopping Network -- Maryland.
Home Shopping Network -- Maryland began doing business in November and, despite its local post office box, is based in Boca Raton, Fla., and has no employees in Baltimore.
U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis issued a temporary restraining order Jan. 7 that prohibits the Maryland corporation from using the names Home Shopping Network, Home Shopping Club or Home Shopping when answering telephones, mailing material and entering into contracts. The restraining order is in effect until Feb. 6.
Home Shopping Network claims in its filing that by using the name, Home Shopping Network -- Maryland, Orion Promotions Inc. of Boca Raton and Jordan Schleider, who operates both companies, are guilty of unfair competition.
Calls to the toll-free number of Home Shopping Network -- Maryland were answered with the greeting: "Corporate offices."
Mr. Schleider said by telephone from Boca Raton that he hadn't realized the name Home Shopping Network was taken. He said he thought the other company of the same name was using the name Home Shopping Club.
"Basically, we had a name that was similar to theirs and they didn't like it," said Mr. Schleider, who said he based his company in Maryland because he grew up in the Mount Washington area. He said he intends to resolve the dispute by changing his company's name.
According to court documents, Mr. Schleider's company sends certificates to prospective customers telling them they have won vacations to the Bahamas or Disney World. Employees of the company later tell customers to send $499 for the vacation and a $1,000 credit toward the purchase of merchandise from Home Shopping Network.
Mr. Schleider said that his company is a legitimate business. Even the original company's lawyers acknowledge that the vacation offers can turn out to be good deals for consumers if they don't fall for pitches offering more expensive packages.
Still, the lawyers contend, Mr. Schleider is trying to confuse buyers who think they are dealing with the original television shopping network, which has more than $1 billion in annual revenue.