Lawyer barred from using his own name for law firm

In Suisman Shapiro Wool Brennan Gray & Greenberg v Suisman (3-04-cv-745[JCH] May 26 2004), the US District Court for the District of Connecticut has ruled that the defendant had acted in bad faith when he adopted the name Suisman & Shapiro for a new law firm following his acrimonious departure from the plaintiff firm, Suisman Shapiro Wool Brennan Gray & Greenberg.

The plaintiff law firm is based in New London, Connecticut and began doing business in 1956. Its corporate name has varied over time, but it alleged that it has used the mark SUISMAN SHAPIRO for several years on advertising and promotional materials. The defendant, S Joel Suisman, was a member of the plaintiff firm until that relationship was terminated on January 29 2004. Suisman thereafter opened a new law firm in New London with another former member of the plaintiff firm - Andrew Shapiro - using the name Suisman & Shapiro.

The plaintiff alleged that, prior to termination of his employment contract, Suisman had threatened to compete with the plaintiff and use the name Suisman & Shapiro in the event his relationship with the plaintiff was terminated. Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that Shapiro had not practised law for several years and was recruited by Suisman solely for the purpose of using his name for the new firm. The plaintiff also alleged actual confusion. Suisman replied that the formation of the new firm was based on purely economic and professional reasons.

The court upheld the plaintiff’s claim, stating that Suisman had adopted the name in bad faith. It issued a preliminary injunction, barring him from (i) using the name Suisman & Shapiro or any combination of the two names, and (ii) maintaining a telephone listing or advertising under such a name. It also required him to file a bond of $50,000.

Matthew A Pater, Winston & Strawn LLP, New York

Unlock unlimited access to all WTR content