'Pawn Stars' Lawsuit: Tiny Fla. Pawn Shop Owns 'Pawn Stars' Name?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 12, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Who owns the "Pawn Stars" trademark - Frank Bishop, pawnbroker and owner of Pawn Star, or A&E Television Network, the television station that broadcasts the reality TV show, "Pawn Stars"?

A&E certainly thinks they own the rights to the "Pawn Stars" moniker.

Bishop filed papers for his business' name, located in Florida, in February of 2006. The show started using it on July 2009, reports The Tampa Tribune.

Note, however, that the A&E show is called "Pawn Stars" and is about a pawn shop located in Las Vegas, Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, reports The Tampa Tribune. And, Bishop's store is called "Pawn Star" and is located in Florida.

In most cases, trademarks protect against unlawful or confusing use of another person's trademark. Trademarks can be a business name, symbol, or word.

Trademarks can arise either through trademark registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or they can arise out of common law.

Common law trademarks arise from use of the trademark, not registration. So, a person does not necessarily need to register their trademark to enjoy trademark protection. Usually, common law trademarks will arise from first usage and ownership of the trademark.

So, who owns the trademark to "Pawn Stars"? Even though Frank Bishop did not register the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it seems that from records, he was the first one to use the trademark since the show didn't even start airing until 2009.

A&E's cease-and-desist letter to Bishop alleges that people might be confused by going onto Bishop's "Pawn Star" page, thinking it was the A&E show. But, there are numerous pawn shops with the same name as Bishop's, reports The Tampa Tribune.

For now, Frank Bishop's attorney is hoping that a court will decide that Bishop can go ahead and use the "Pawn Stars" trademark, The Tampa Tribune reports.

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