The Hon Manifesto

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In recent weeks there has been considerable wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over Denise Whiting’s claim of exclusive ownership of commercial rights to the word “HON.”

UPDATE:The most cogent and authoritative overview of the HON issue is the commentary by attorney Jim Astrachan that originally appeared in the 12/20/10 Daily Record. Also very informative is the Midday with Dan Rodricks program from 1/5/11 featuring Astrachan and attorney Eliot Wagonheim.

Some have defamed Whiting and Cafe Hon in public forums, which is not only unproductive and off-topic, but only serves to undercut their own goals by bringing Whiting more publicity and sympathy. Those who smear her and call for protests and boycotts should read Benn Ray’s commentary in Baltimore Shank.

I have nothing against Cafe Hon or Whiting personally. I’ve eaten at Cafe Hon; the food is fine. I wish her well with Hontown and all her other endeavors. Whiting deserves credit for Honfest. Pulling off a festival year after year is no small feat. Without question, Whiting has contributed to the community and is an astute businessperson.

That’s all beside the point, just as the food at Cafe Hon is beside the point. Laws and rules apply the same to everybody, even if Whiting were a living saint.

Some people have said things to the effect of, “Whiting is a shrewd businessperson. The word was up for grabs, and she was first to stake a claim on it. She owns it, and now she can do what she wants. That’s the American way.”

This is not true.

Some people have said things like, “What difference does it make? Whiting does good for the community. It isn’t as though her trademark affects you in any way.”

This is also not true. Each one of us is affected. Whiting’s claim to exclusive commercial rights to “hon” unreasonably inhibits speech and restrains business.

Photo: George L. Smyth

Whiting’s claims to “hon” evidently extend beyond the word itself into the context in which it is used and the characterization of “the Baltimore hon.”

“I’m Hon Central,” Whiting said on a radio interview.

The Maryland Transit Administration “Charm Card” display ad, for which the agency consulted Whiting, does not represent any of her businesses and could not be confused with Cafe Hon or HonTown. Other than the use of the word, what else could Whiting approve but the image and characterization of the hon portrayed in the advertisement?

According to a Baltimore Sun article, Whiting charged a non-profit group $25 to throw a Hon-themed dance. She is accused of seeking a fee from the author of a book about hons, and also allegedly attempted to intimidate the owners of a Towson shop, Thanks, Hon!

Whiting’s statements in the press have done little to support her position and demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of what a trademark is, what it represents, how it is used, and what rights it bestows upon its owner.

“If somebody does something awful with the word, I might take issue with it,” she said during an appearance on WBAL Radio.

On a 98 Rock radio show, Whiting was asked whether the word “hon” printed on a t-shirt would violate her trademark.

“As long as you’re not mass-producing them…” she began to answer.

When pressed on whether she would object to a t-shirt that said, “Laugh, Hon” or “My Baltimore, Hon,” Whiting replied:

If somebody’s going to produce 5,000 of them for mass-production of them, I’m going to take a look at that. I’m going to be honest with you. But if somebody’s going to produce a small quantity of Hon something, I’m not going to…I can’t police that sort of thing.

….If somebody produces a t-shirt that is really derogatory, and really horrible, and presents the city in an awful way, would that be fair? If it’s something that’s derogatory that’s out there, I wouldn’t want Baltimore to be portrayed in the negative….

It’s interesting to note that Whiting says she would consider acting if the word were used in an awful way not because consumers might be confused about a product’s source, or it reflects adversely upon one of her entities, or it dilutes her brand name. She says she’d act in the public interest on behalf of Baltimore. It isn’t about her brand identity, it’s about Baltimore’s brand identity.

When Whiting seized “knock-off” merchandise from a store at BWI, the problem wasn’t that consumers might be unaware of their source or confused by imitation products of inferior quality. It simply cut into her sales.

One important point: Trademarks must always be defended. Otherwise the mark owner loses exclusive rights and the word or phrase falls into the public domain. A trademark owner cannot pick and choose whether to enforce proper usage.

Our everyday language includes many common words that were once trademarked; aspirin, cellophane, escalator, gummi, supermarket and zipper, for example. Companies hire legions of attorneys to make sure that trademarked terms remain under their exclusive control and don’t slip into the public domain, such as Xerox, Band-Aid, Kleenex and Kitty Litter.

Policing and enforcement are exactly what a trademark owner must do in order to preserve ownership and the value of the property.

At any time, Whiting could attempt enforcement against Welcome To Baltimore, Hon! or my friend William Patrick Tandy, who publishes the award-winning magazine Smile Hon, You’re in Baltimore! or any other entity with “hon” in the name or a sense of hon-ness – apparently especially so if she disapproves of the content and context.

Whiting might frown upon a t-shirt that says, “Fuck You, Hon,” which I personally think would be amusing and well within somebody’s First Amendment right to produce and sell.

The plan all along for WTBH included an online shop to sell t-shirts, mugs, stickers and other Baltimore-related ephemera. People often email me asking whether this merchandise is available. We sold a handful of t-shirts and coffee mugs that use the word in the context of our name to commemorate last winter’s Snowmageddon.

Tandy is working on a special hon-themed issue of SHYIB for which a diverse cross-section of contributors are composing their thoughts about the word and the controversy.

WTBH or SHYIB or anybody else could become a target if Baltimore is depicted in a light Whiting disfavors. She might object if I started a column called “Baltimore Hon,” “Honville” or, god forbid, just plain “Hon.”

Maybe she’ll discover that WTBH’s Twitter account is ABaltimoreHon and try to force me to give it up, or strong-arm BaltimoreHon to give up hers. Maybe she’ll take a dislike to the blog Bon Appetit Hon or those wacky lindyhoppers of Hi-De-Hon.

What if another restaurant wanted to serve a Honburger, or a car shop call itself HonMobile? Maybe somebody is working on a business plan for Baltimore Hon magazine, or considering a Hon Museum devoted to Baltimore’s working-class women.

The limits of Whiting’s claims aren’t clear – even to herself. She says the trademark only applies to certain classes of items: t-shirts, coffee mugs, stickers and the like. Yet it appears she believes that her ownership interests extend to display advertising on public transportation, dances thrown by non-profit groups, unrelated retail stores, and works of prose – none of which could be mistakenly linked to Cafe Hon, Honfest or Hontown.

Whiting says that her trademark is limited to HON within an oval. Yet she allegedly threatened the owners of Thanks, Hon! because the shop’s name supposedly infringed on her trademark.

Defending against a claim of trademark violation in court costs tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. People on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist letter usually give in to the demands. Nobody else ever has to ever know about it. The threat of litigation – the mere existence of a threat – has a chilling effect on speech.

Whiting says that all she is doing is protecting her property and her investment.

”All my company was trying to do by trademarking the commercial use of ‘Hon’ was to protect it from merchandise knock-offs and poachers who wanted to capitalize on the commercial side of the concept enhancement work we had done,” Whiting said in a Dec. 16 letter to Baltimore Sun.

Whiting’s concerns about knock-offs and poachers is particularly eyebrow-raising since the caricature of the quintessential Whiting-style Baltimore hon – overweight, big hair, gaudy jewelry, garish make-up, bright and outrageous clothing – is clearly and obviously drawn from the films of John Waters.

As if the link isn’t obvious enough, in front of her restaurant is a gigantic pink flamingo – another Waters film reference.

The Whiting-style hon caricature is a product of Waters, Divine, art director Vince Peranio, costumers, make-up artists, designers and other assorted crew members. Even Waters and Peranio don’t take credit for creating the hon persona, since they were just reflecting real life.

Any claim to concept creation for “the hon” is as absurd as if there were a Wire-themed restaurant, with waiters dressed as corner boys in do-rags and its owner parading around in Omar’s iconic trenchcoat. And to drive home the point, with a huge wiretap on the front of the restaurant. And then to sponsor a WireFest, trademark the word “wire,” and stake a claim as Wire Central and the final arbiter of all things Wire-related.

It’s just…silly.

Whiting’s entire schtick is based on John Waters’ films. It’s safe to say that if there were no Waters films, there probably would be no Cafe Hon, Honfest or Hontown. If anybody is knocking off, poaching and capitalizing on the creative work of others, it’s Whiting.

But whatever. If Whiting wants to build a career out of being derivative, that’s between her and the originality gods. I’m cool with it until somebody gets all grabby and says, “Mine, mine…all mine and nobody else’s.”

Whiting claims to own the trademark on an oval HON sticker. This oval HON sticker is a rip-off too.

The oval HON sticker is ripped off the OBX sticker created in 1994 by James Douglas, owner of Chilli Peppers restaurant in Kill Devil Hills, N.C.

An oval sticker or plate with capital letters is a symbol established by the United Nations as an international vehicle registration code, and used in Europe since 1968. A design for undistinguished capital letters inside an oval cannot be trademarked because it is already in the public domain as an international standard, just as you can’t trademark a stop sign.

Douglas actually coined the term “OBX” as a designation for the Outer Banks. He made it up, adding the X to the Outer Banks initials. Since he couldn’t trademark the oval design with capital letters, Douglas registered a trademark for “OBX” in 1998.

Like Douglas, the only thing Whiting could trademark is the letters within the oval: H-O-N.

Whiting’s trademark claim boils down to that one word, its meaning, and how the word is used.

Hon is a term of endearment in common use for a long, long time. Since long before the existence of Cafe Hon and the registration of her trademark.

Hon is “a word that belongs to Baltimore,” Whiting said on WBAL Radio. “It doesn’t belong to Denise Whiting.”

We hear the word every day from cashiers, waitresses, family, co-workers, everybody. It’s part of Baltimore’s linguistic fabric.

Here’s a key question: What comes to mind when you hear “hon” – Cafe Hon? HonTown? Honfest? Or nothing at all, the word just blending into the everyday background?

For a common word or phrase to have a valid trademark, it must have a distinctive secondary meaning that is different from how the word is ordinarily used. And it must exclusively represent a business, product or service.

If I say “Apple,” you’re likely to think of computers or iPhones or iPods – electronics, and not the fruit. “Taco” and “bell” are two very common and generic words, but “Taco Bell” exclusively represents a chain of fast food restaurants and nothing else.

What does “HON” represent – Cafe Hon? HonTown? Honfest? Whiting?

The near-universal surprise to the news that Whiting trademarked “hon” speaks loudly to the absence of linkage between the word and Whiting or any her business interests. HON has zero brand identity.

For Whiting’s trademark to be valid, her “Hon” must mean something distinctly different from our hon – the Baltimore hon, the term of endearment hon – that refers exclusively to a business, product or service.

To put it another way: “Merit” is a common word that is a brand of cigarette. “Apple” is a brand of computer. “Chase” is a brand of bank. What product or service is HON is a brand of?

Whiting has never attempted to give any other meaning to hon. There’s no distinction between her hon and our hon. She promotes – and sells – the word in its common generic meaning as a term of endearment. The word is the product.

“I think it’s a word that belongs to Baltimore to be celebrated each and every day by each and every person,” she said on 98 Rock.

On WBAL Radio: “I beg everyone, please use the word. I love it up on the Parkway.”

Back to the OBX dude. In 1998, Douglas registered a trademark on a term he invented four years earlier. He wanted to promote the identity of the Outer Banks as a destination, and it worked extremely well. OBX stuck and has gained considerable brand recognition for the Outer Banks.

Douglas’ OBX stickers were very popular. He gave the stickers away for a couple of years, then formed a company – OBX Stock – to sell merchandise. By 2004, OBX Stock had more than $1 million in annual sales.

In 2003, Douglas discovered that another company, Bicast, was selling stickers that said “OB Xtreme.” OBX Stock sued for trademark infringement – and lost.

The court said that OBX was a generic descriptive term for the Outer Banks and did not identify OBX Stock, and therefore was not a valid trademark. The decision was upheld on appeal in 2009.

The court said:

Trademark law, at a general level, protects the goodwill represented by particular marks, enabling consumers readily to recognize products and their source and to prevent consumer confusion between products and between sources of products. The marks enable consumers to make informed, independent decisions about quality and other product characteristics. But the law also protects the “linguistic commons” by denying mark holders an exclusive interest in words that do not identify goodwill attached to products or product sources but rather are used for their common meaning or meanings not indicative of products and product sources.

Denise Whiting does not have a valid trademark on “hon.” She is a bully, trampling the linguistic commons.

The word is, and always has been, in the public domain. Hon is owned by nobody. Hon can be used by any person for any purpose – commercial or otherwise – so long it isn’t confused in the minds of consumers with Cafe Hon, or Hontown, or Honfest.

Whiting reminds me of nothing more than the Wizard of Oz, pushing levers to shoot terrifying flames into the air as she bellows, “I am the great and powerful Mistress of Hon!” while the citizenry quakes and flatters her business acumen.

She’s just a badly misinformed restaurateur.

Ultimately, what I think matters less than what she thinks. People like me, Tandy, shop owners, bloggers and others linked with “hon” are all now operating under a cloud of uncertainty. We are on notice that she claims the right to exert trademark ownership interest on the word if she disapproves of how Baltimore is depicted. She has shown a willingness to act in the past – to the point of seizing property.

Even if her trademark were valid, the ownership interests Whiting has expressed are far over-reaching and intrude on First Amendment rights.

It appears that the only way the issue will be resolved is in court. As far as I’m concerned, the weapon is loaded and a round has been chambered. It’s only a matter of pulling the trigger. Somebody has to put the bell on the cat’s collar, to pose a test case to resolve the issue once and for all.

It may as well be WTBH.

“I don’t expect a challenge,” she said.

Well hon, here it is.

Whiting may take legal action. She has said she’ll “sue the pants off” anybody who violates her trademark.

If she sues, it will cost her a lot of money and take a long time. She will be inviting scrutiny of her business interests and practices. She will further alienate Baltimoreans and erode the goodwill she has banked, particularly among creative and artistic vendors who might do business with her. She will tarnish herself, hon culture and Honfest.

And she will lose.

About the author

WTBH founder and editor Bruce Goldfarb has written for Baltimore magazine, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and numerous other publications. He has also done eight books that you've never read.

65 Comments

  1. Steve Akers says:

    Well said. I wonder if she will read this. I would love to see her face.

    Reply
  2. baltimoregal says:

    This was very well written. I appreciate you not going into the gutter or being cruel in order to make your point. It’s not necessary and further muddies the issue.

    Reply
    • Ann says:

      I will say that it could have been a tad better written. Like starting from an older date of the story to ghe most current…or starting something and coming back to it later…there is some repeating. Aside from that I agree to giving kudos to stating facts and not bashing. For me, I dont live there but was watching Kitchen Nightmares and was intrigued to read more. Ms. Whitings should focus more on her food and less on her appearance. Or taking a word that is a term of endearment and trademarking it. I live in Texas and would never do that with the word y’all. Just not right. I hope she loses her battle over hed trademarked word and stop copying Mr.Waters and come up with designs and lose the ugly flamingo. Dont know about the story behind the word HON in Baltimore…but why not call it Whitings Cafe and just be original and unique?

      Reply
  3. Latex Perkins says:

    Nice, logical exposition.

    Reply
  4. Valerie Lambert says:

    It seems obvious that the solution is for anyone and everyone who disagrees with her “claim” to use it loudly and proudly…and OFTEN.

    Her ignorance will shine through, and she’ll either have to give it up, or hire legal counsel and spend allllll of her time and money in the courts, taking action against all those who show “Bawlmr” pride. (Why doesn’t she try to trademark THAT, too, BTW??)

    Which, eventually, will lead her to see that she’ll have to give it up, when the docket is THAT FULL. There’ll be no time (or money) left to run the cafe. This doesn’t even take into account the public opinion that will run VERY MUCH against her when just the first case comes to trial.

    Reply
  5. Kristin Strong says:

    Nicely put. You subtracted the emotion from a very charged topic and added in rationality and legal precedent to support your case. I wish you luck in whatever results from your article.

    Reply
  6. Adopted Baltimore Hon says:

    Well written, Bruce! Every. Single. Word. Let the legal games begin! Denise Whiting is — indeed — “Robert Irsay in a Dress!”

    Reply
  7. Thanks for such an articulate discussion. There’s so much emotion tied into the idea of “Hon” and all that it represents that it’s hard to get past the initial outrage. But it does no good for anyone to make snide, disparaging comments that do nothing to further the discussion.

    I’m no lawyer and I speak only for myself when I say that while I believe Ms. Whiting does have the obligation to protect her brand, I can not wrap my mind around the notion that her brand extends to the encompass all that is associated with the word “Hon”. Cafe Hon? Absolutely. Hon Fest? Sure. Hon Bar? No argument there. But does that give her the right to claim ownership of any and everything that attaches the word “Hon” to its name? I don’t see how.

    Am I concerned that the crosshairs will land on Bon Appetit Hon? How could I not be? Yet I never imagined the colloquial “Hon” would be the cause. I find it ironic that Ms. Whiting feels entitled to police usage of a word associated with her brand while Conde Nast, the multimillion dollar parent company of Bon Appetit, does not. Or at least as far as BAH goes, they do not. Of the two, where brands are concerned, one is globally recognized while the other is regional. I would have thought I’d have more to worry about from a mega corporation.

    In my opinion, Ms. Whiting has built her businesses on a dated stereotype of cat eye glasses and beehive hair dos. And it’s worked for her. But that’s not what I’m about. My BAH brand is based on the other meaning of “Hon”. The intangible one. The one that is welcoming and warm. The one that will do everything possible to make sure you feel as though your body and soul has been nourished.

    Would my food blog ever be mistaken for having an association with either Bon Appetit or any of Ms. Whiting’s ventures? I don’t see how it could. And if BAH happens to raise the ire of Ms. Whiting, I can only hope that a local law firm or the students at UB Law school will be inclined to take on some probono work. Because I feel equally entitled to use the word “Hon”.

    Reply
  8. Very well said! This whole thing is ridiculous.

    Reply
  9. Katie says:

    Great, great article. I agree with you wholeheartedly and I’m so put off by Ms. Whiting’s behavior. And If you do decide to make WTBH tee shirts, I will make sure that all my friends and I buy some! The concept of “hon” goes so much farther than the caricature that she’s making it out to be. Thanks!

    Reply
  10. Sue J says:

    Thank you for writing this excellent post. In June of 2007 a handful of us in Northeast Baltimore started a little neighborhood blog called “Harford Road, Hon.” We thought the word “hon” epitomized the sense of community and neighborliness that we feel and that we embrace. How ridiculous that we now wonder if we need to get permission to use the word “hon,” or at the very least think twice about when and how we use it in our own postings about our neighborhood!

    Reply
  11. Muriel Pritchett says:

    Very well written explanation of the situation. Great job, thank you!

    Reply
  12. BaltimoreRAG says:

    I’ll take one of them there mugs, Hon.

    Reply
  13. Paul says:

    Take the HON sticker (if you have one) off of your car and mail it back to Denise. That’s what I’m going to do. She doesn’t deserve the free advertising.

    Reply
  14. LetterToHon says:

    Wonderful. Excellent work with research and writing.

    Denise Whiting must respond to the outcry. From the perspective of a media strategist, Ms. Whiting is causing serious damage, verging on irreparable, to her company. She seemed concerned for her employees in one of her Sun letters; continued silence and inaction is a detriment to each of them. I will be fascinated to watch her next move in the media.

    And put me down for one mug.

    Reply
  15. Anne says:

    Great article. There is NO DOUBT(not allegedly) that DW threatened/harassed the small boutique owners of “Thanks, Hon!”, in Towson.
    Love the “Irsay in a dress” reference.
    Wonder if I printed up shirts saying Baltimore’s DONE w/ Cafe HON, I would get sued???

    Reply
  16. Andy says:

    Really nice essay! Also, good mugs. It’s nice to be able to see where to scrub the tea stains.

    Reply
  17. cg says:

    How do I order the HON coffee mug?

    Reply
  18. ellen says:

    Hi, I’m a graphic designer (and I’m sure you’ve already had offers) but I’d love to help you (and anyone else) design merchandise to help protest DW and all her grabby-grabby-ness.

    Reply
  19. Mike In Phoenix (md) says:

    Outstanding job Bruce!!!!
    I have read your site off and on for awhile and appreciate this type of well thought out and executed writing. I patronize and like the Cafe Hon, but like many others have been quite turned off by this trademarking of the commonly used term Hon by the owner. I always thought about and gave her kudo’s for taking a step to copy everything that is John Waters in her restaurant and Honfest. But to trademark Hon – a term / culture that has existed before Ms Whiyting was born is ludicrous!!! I am going to go out of my way in patronizing and buying anything with Hon, NOT owned by Ms Whiting, until her nonsense is set aside by a court of law. Your WTBHon site is always interesting and thought provoking – keep up the outstanding work!!!! I have lived, work and play in metro area my entire 54 years – including 17 years in Fed Hill and Caton – I can honestly say a day does not go by where I did noy hear “Hon” as part of the common discussions along the way. Trademarking this is obscene!

    Reply
  20. RedDonnaAnn says:

    Can you get Baltimore Brew to take down the offensive photo of you giving the finger while holding the mug? It turned me off completely.

    BTW… where do we buy the mugs? My PayPal account is thirsty.

    Reply
  21. Karen says:

    Hey, hon, I wanna buy the mug and might even consider producing the “Fuck You, Hon” t-shirts. I don’t see a link to purchase the mug. Can you help a hon out?

    Thanks :)

    Reply
  22. brooksiefan says:

    How do we contribute to the Bruce Goldfarb Legal Defense Fund? Or maybe we can just buy you lunch at Roman’s?

    Reply
  23. Tom says:

    Well said. The best analysis I’ve read yet. Kudos, Bruce!

    Reply
  24. Parkville says:

    What an unbelievably stupid PR and business move. I’m sure that any income generated by this copywriting won’t offset the damage she’s done to her brand, her restaurant’s income and her standing in the community. You get what you deserve lady.

    Reply
  25. Ernest Smith says:

    Hey Hon©, I’ve been reading about Denise Whiting and her trade marking of the word Hon®, and its been interesting.
    Now the guy who hosts a website called “Welcome to Baltimore Hon®” is daring Ms. Whiting to sue him by making and selling some coffee mugs with Hon® written on them (in red no less!).
    The editors of “Smile Hon®, You’re in Baltimore” are putting out a special edition all about the “furor” surrounding this issue.
    Facebook pages are dedicated to the controversy and tweets have been flying.
    Hey Hon©, you’d think Denise Whiting stole somebody’s baby.
    I’m not worried. I can say Hey Hon© anytime I want, because I own the copyright! I wrote the book Hey Hon! How to Talk Like a Real Bawlamoron way back in 1993 and I’ll hold the copyright until well after I’m dead, if that makes any sense.
    Denise Whiting used to sell my books in her store and never sued me for infringement of her trademark, so I guess I’m safe.
    But Hey Hon©, I can understand the feelings that someone is taking credit for your work without asking.
    Type Hey Hon© in the Google and you are directed to “Hey Hon: The Bawlmerese Lexicon,” copyrighted in 1996, a website filled with words and definitions lifted from my book. Should I sue him?
    Maybe I’m not the only person to have noticed that people in Baltimore have a special way of saying things.
    I sent a copy of my book to Dan Rodricks and was a little pissed to read one of his later columns filled with large chunks from my book in a paean to the warmth and wonder of Bawlmer. I asked why he didn’t attribute my work in his column. His response? “Chill out.”
    Even if he is a douche, that’s probably good advice, because Hey Hon©, what are we talking about here? A way of life? An accent? A word?
    I ended up publishing and distributing the book on my own. I felt good about it. I went to Artscape and sold about 200 copies in a couple days. I had been invited to sit in the Book Tent with the “serious” writers, but they became less and less friendly as my sales mounted. I left early. My “host” stole the Hey Hon© hat I had made up for the day and I went home. Screw ‘em.
    I sent a copy of my manuscript to John Goodspeed, the Evening Sun columnist who had written “Mr. Peep’s Diary” for years when I was a kid. He wrote a gracious blurb for the book. Props from a childhood hero, can it get any better?
    At one point, the Baltimore City and County Libraries had multiple copies of my book. It was popular enough that almost all of them ended up stolen. Hey Hon©, that’s life.
    The Hon® man actually sent me a giant HON® sign, just like the ones he posts on the “Welcome to Baltimore” sign on the Parkway. He wrote me a note on it, but that’s just for me.
    A couple years later, a stranger, who found me through my brother, told me he gave a copy of my book to his father when he was in Hospice and that it had made his dad chuckle. Hey Hon©, I’m way ahead on this deal.
    I grew up just a few blocks from Memorial Stadium before the Orioles became a successful business. In those days you felt like you had to love them. They were our underachieving children, the ones who tried hard but couldn’t quite win the big game. In the Fifties a win over the Yankees was a rare and wondrous thing. Most of the time my father would listen to the games on the radio and curse Paul Richards, but every once in a while we would walk the few blocks to the stadium and root for the home team. And everybody I knew spoke Bawlmerese.
    There is a style, a pace that I associate with words like Hon® and “Poh-leece” and the people who use them. It is a friendly, easygoing, neighborly feeling. Everybody belongs. Everybody is a Hon®. It is the least secret password I know.
    As the official copyright owner of Hey Hon©, I hereby grant free and full use of the words Hey Hon© to each and every Balwamoron in perpetuity.

    Ernest Smith

    Reply
  26. Denise says:

    Thanks, Hon for standing up to this woman. I’ll take one of those mugs. If I could afford it, I’d buy a whole case and stand in front of Cafe Hon and hand them to passersby.

    Kudos to you for an excellent article. It was wonderful and exceedingly rational. Had it been me (and I suspect a lot of other people) it would have been one long, screaming tirade.

    Viva la resistance, Hon!

    Reply
  27. CSR says:

    I’ll definitely take one of those mugs, Hon. Where do I buy them? Hell, I’ll have 10 of them. I know 10 friends that’ll adore such a gift.

    And to think that I actually supported this woman when the City wanted to tear down her flamingo. As far as I’m concerned, I say we call Mayor Rawlings-Blake and re-petition to have it removed.

    Reply
  28. Joyce says:

    So where is the link to buy the mugs? I so want one!

    Reply
  29. Cindy Smith says:

    Oh please sir If you are so full of energy can’t you put it to better use.How about taking your friends to Leakin Park to help find a missing teen, maybe you could help out at the soup kitchen or even protest the corrupt judges in our Charm of a City so they will acutually leave the bad guys in jail…..Maybe then we will have fewer incidents like Ms.Barnes from N.C. I pray for her and her family as well as for hateful demons as yourself.

    Reply
    • "John Smith" says:

      What do you know of others work in making Baltimore a better place?? That’s essentially what this article is about…Putting an end to a FEW cases of Corruption+Theft. If your so fired up Ma’am, maybe YOU should look for teens that may/may not want to be found…YOU should keep feeding the homeless instead of finding them jobs, or (God Forbid!) take back and renovate some of your banks boarded up properties into functional homes for those families(or keep them Charming little rats nests). Yer doin’ a Great Job so far Lady!

      Reply
  30. Honey Dew says:

    Whiting = Attila the Hon

    Reply
  31. pat mcnicholas says:

    i remember before the ‘HOH’ festival Hampden had for years the Hampden Little League festival on 36th St. and she complained it was disrupting her bussiness and the Great City leaders stopped the event. Hampden and the word HOH have been in Baltimore a long time and our children and grandchilden will be here long after she is gone

    Reply
  32. Chaz says:

    I wanna buy a mug, hon. :0)

    Reply
  33. HonnyBunny says:

    I believe the photo was menacing enough in itself! Too. Funny.

    Reply
  34. cg says:

    I hear a rumor the coffee mugs are possibly called off now.

    Reply
  35. Sharon says:

    What I find interesting is that she said that her trademark is for the word HON in an oval. I think her trademark filing had to specifically describe it in that manner because the actual word “Hon” (not on an oval sticker) was already trademarked by another company. Check out http://www.hon.com which is for an office furniture company based in Iowa that’s been in business 1944, but only under the name HON since 1966. As far as I know, the HON company, unlike Ms. Whiting, does not send their lawyers after people who print the letters H-O-N products. Though, I’m sure if Ms. Whiting started slapping her HON mark on desks and office chairs and tried to market it as HON office furniture, HON would all over her in a heartbeat. OR maybe The HON Company doesn’t know that Ms. Whitiing is claiming control over all uses of “HON”.

    Reply
  36. Jerry says:

    Your cost is $10.99 per mug Bruce???..Seems alittle high, you sure your not profiting off these???

    Reply
  37. Kathy says:

    I would love a mug. What she did to the Thanks, Hon store and tried to get away with really bothers me and my friends. Is the Happy Hon gift store in Dundalk still around? I wonder if she sent a letter to them as well, either before or after she got her trademark. I really cannot believe that she tried to scare the Thanks, Hon store claiming that she had a trademark that she did even have yet. That’s pretty low.

    Reply
  38. Tim says:

    Not a lawyer here, but I work with intellectual property laws and trademark issues every day. The way I understand the laws to work is as follows:

    When you produce any intellectual property, the copyright is de facto yours upon publishing. “Publishing” here means releasing your work to the public in any form, i.e. putting up a website, printing cards, showing a piece in a gallery, etc. If anyone copies your stuff and uses it for commercial purposes, all you have to do is prove you published earlier. A cease and desist order can then be issued that prohibits the commercial use of your intellectual property. (The difference in filing for copyright vs. not filing is that you cannot sue for damages if you have not filed. Otherwise the same rules apply.) A strict reading of the statutes would say that someone who has used the letters h – o – n as an image in any medium prior to when Ms. Whiting produced the “HON” sticker should be able to go to court and have a cease and desist order issued against any and all of Ms. Whiting’s commercial ventures using the word “hon”. For example, if they wanted to, the HON office furniture people could get a restraining order against Ms. Whiting selling anything that could be construed as office furniture or supplies, since there is a possibility that there could be confusion by consumers as to who made the product.

    Frankly, I’m amazed that the copyright office allowed her to claim copyright on a single word. That should have come under trademark guidelines. I’d like to see the papers, I’m betting that all Ms. Whiting owns copyright to is the oval sticker with the letters h – o – n in that specific arrangement and that specific font.

    Reply
  39. FHR says:

    Tim, I think you’re a little behind. Whiting owns the trademark for the word “HON”, not any specific logo/design. She has 3 trademarks on the word “HON”: one for restaurants, another one for retail gift shops, and the third for almost everything that the word “HON” can be printed on (clothing, paper goods, stickers, etc.).

    The HON Furniture Company, on the other hand, owns the trademark for their specific “HON” logo/design, which consists of the word “HON” in a *particular* type face.

    Whiting’s trademark, on the other hand, appears to cover the word “HON” in *any* type face. She has been telling everyone that her logo in the particular typeface with the oval around it (and that includes the “Cafe Hon – BALTIMORE” design element) *could not* be trademarked, which is, quite frankly, a boldface lie.

    Reply
  40. Ernest Smith says:

    Ahem –

    Trademark vs. copyright

    Trademark = a distinctive sign or indicator used by an individual, business organization, or other legal entity to identify that the products or services to consumers with which the trademark appears originate from a unique source, and to distinguish its products or services from those of other entities.

    Copyright = a set of exclusive rights granted by the law of a jurisdiction to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work.

    different beasts

    Reply
  41. Interestingly, when Montana residents cried foul after someone tried to trademark the state slogan THE LAST BEST PLACE, their Senators stepped in to block the trademark applications by inserting legislation in appropriations bills. See http://www.marylandiplaw.com.

    Reply
  42. Karen says:

    Hey Hon . . . Me again. I think I’m gonna do it . . . the “Fuck You, Hon” T-shirts. Putting a lot of thought into them. Need to contact a local artist because they are going to be beautiful . . . any reasonable artists come to mind? E-mail me with the information. Thanks a bunch, Hon :)

    Reply
    • ellen says:

      karen, i can’t find your email anywhere! i’m totally in to help you hon. if you click on my name, it’ll take you to my website, which has my contact info.

      Thanks hon!

      Reply
  43. BmoreBedell says:

    I took a bunch of pictures at last years Hon Fest you might enjoy!

    http://bmorebedell.com/2010/06/good-morning-baltimore.html

    Reply
  44. Half-Hon Hon says:

    My parents met at Ft. Meade in the early ’60’s- my mom was from Baltimore and I’ve been called “Hon” all of my life by her and all my relatives back east. I was raised and I live in Washington State but am closest to all of my relatives from Baltimore and have always proudly considered myself to be half-hon. I recently came back from Baltimore and my cousin from Dundalk told me about the Cafe Hon owner so I thought I’d investigate the dip who decided to make “Hon” her own. Way to go, Diane-the-Hun Whiting! Nice way to build a wedge between you and the community who have been using that word for decades. I’m sending back my t-shirt I bought at CH a few years ago. I’m never stepping foot in there again.

    Reply
  45. Minnie says:

    Saw this coo-coo on Kitchen Nightmares tonight. Man, oh man… She has some issues. I hope the Baltimore/Hon situation is resolved and that all is peaceful now! Great website by the way :)

    Reply
  46. Homer Hon says:

    I take ofense with the use of my last name being trademarked by this lady.
    If anybody has a right to trademark the name of HON then it should be myself,
    or members of my family.. Enough Said,
    Homer Hon

    Reply
  47. HON says:

    You killed cafe “HON”! Are you happy now?

    Reply
  48. Jeriel says:

    Hi,

    I watched Kitchen Nightmares Season 5 and searched for your site. Did the hag, I meant hon, stop suing people?

    Thanks.

    Reply
  49. areopagitica says:

    Scusi, but just what is this “Hon” business anyway. I have heard of Ho, that is something they rap about. Probably even in Baltimore. And where is B’more anyway. Does anyone care?

    Reply

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