Cafe Hon's owner is sorry for trademark controversy

Cafe Hon owner and "hon" trademarker Denise Whiting wants Baltimore to know she's sorry.

Not sorry that she trademarked the town's classic term of endearment. Just sorry that she spoke about it so clumsily that her adopted hometown came to think of her as greedy. And sorry that nobody seemed to be listening a month ago, when she made basically the same apology in a letter to the editor in The Baltimore Sun.

The newest apology came in the form of a news release Wednesday.

"I apologize to everyone in Baltimore for misspeaking," Whiting says in the release. "Many of my fellow citizens are clearly upset and worried that our trademark position means they can't use the word as they wish. I'm sorry for creating the impression that I can stop people from using the word, and for causing such an outcry here.

"No one can own a word or stop people from saying it or using it, but I know that some things I said to reporters have many people thinking that I do 'own' it — or at least think I do. That's simply not the case. I know that my trademark is limited in scope and I have failed to convey that in recent comments to the media."

Whiting said essentially the same thing in a letter to the editor that ran in The Sun on Dec. 19. Why say it again in a news release?

"I'm not sure people had listened," said Baltimore trademark attorney Ned T. Himmelrich, whom Whiting has recently retained to consult with her on trademark issues and to whom the news release directed media inquiries. "People got so up in arms. …What she said has been drowned out."

laura.vozzella@baltsun.com

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