Seattle Trademark History Tour, Part 1: The “Gargeline” Shootout at Pioneer Square

by Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition
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This year, the great city of Seattle, Washington is the location of both the International Trademark Association Annual Meeting (May 19-23) and the American Intellectual Property Law Association Spring Meeting (May 15-17). If you are one of the many lawyers attending these events and you want a Seattle trademark experience, you could do the obvious and visit locations associated with the city’s famous modern brands. Alternatively, you could go back in time a bit further.

Washington became the 42nd state in 1889, the same year the Great Seattle Fire destroyed much of the city. A combination of new railroad lines and post-fire construction led to a boom in population and commercial activity. On July 17, 1897, this already-promising economic climate went into hyper-drive when the S.S. Portland arrived from Alaska, heralding the beginning of the Klondike gold rush. The trademark disputes that arose from this economic activity started working their way into the published opinions of the Ninth Circuit and the newly christened Washington Supreme Court in the first decades of the twentieth century.

We took a look at the first ten trademark disputes involving the city of Seattle (which date from the turn of the century up to the start of World War I). To our delight, we found them riddled with connections to celebrities, shootouts, world politics and the multicultural fabric of migration in the American west. So, if you need something to do in Seattle, why not review our ten part Seattle Trademark History series. You can even create your own Seattle Trademark History Tour by consulting our handy map (also reprinted at the end of this post) and visiting one of the locations that gave rise to these disputes. This is Part 1. You can find the other nine parts of the series (once they are published) by clicking here.

The “Gargeline” Shootout at Pioneer Square

G.O. Guy’s Pioneer Square Store in 1900

We begin where Seattle began: Pioneer Square, the home of George Omar Guy’s flagship drug store. Guy might have earned a footnote in the history books even if he had never set foot in Seattle. As a young man in the 1870’s, while attending the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (now the University of the Sciences), he supposedly invented the ice cream soda by mistake while working at a Philly drug store.

In 1888, Guy and his family moved to Seattle and he set up his first G.O. Guy drug store at the corner of Occidental and Main (next to Occidental Square Park). The store was burned down in the Great Seattle Fire, so Guy had to sell drugs out of tent for a while. In 1893, he moved into Pioneer Square’s Metropole building at 2nd Avenue and Yesler Way. Financed and once owned by Seattle founding father Henry Yesler, the three-story Metropole was one of the few structures to survive the fire. The Pioneer Square store became a must-visit supply stop for gold prospectors and a gathering place for politicians, business people and the Seattle police.

On June 25, 1901, John Considine, vaudevillian and owner of a well-known Seattle box house (a combined theater and brothel), had a sore throat, so he stopped at the G.O. Guy pharmacy to get some gargling medicine before heading home. While standing outside the store, Considine was spotted by former Police Chief William Meredith. Meredith came running up Yesler Way towards Considine with a mysterious package in brown butcher paper, which turned out to be a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun. Meredith used to work for Considine, but he later became a police officer and allegedly started demanding protection money from the box house. Considine had recently ratted out Meredith’s corruption to the city, causing Meredith to lose his job. Meredith was out for revenge.

June 26, 1901 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Arriving at the G.O. Guy store, Meredith shot but missed Considine, instead striking train conductor G.W. Houston (who had been sitting inside the drugstore drinking a sarsaparilla and fortunately survived without serious injuries). A deadly struggle ensued, also involving Considine’s brother, who was present on the scene. The brothers wrestled away Meredith’s gun and killed him. They were eventually acquitted of murder charges.

In the wake of the shootout, and the press coverage of the murder trial, Guy apparently took commercial advantage of the situation by advertising his now-famous gargle medicine under the name GARGELINE. This enraged competing pharmacist W.H. Woodcock, who ran the Smith & Kennedy pharmacy, located about a block away at 601 Second Ave, inside the swanky Butler Hotel (which was frequented at the time by the likes of Williams Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft). Woodcock, who had run pharmacies in Paris, London and New York before moving to Seattle, claimed to have been selling a similar product, which he had been referring to as GARGLINE (same mark without the extra “E”), for over twenty years.

Woodcock filed an infringement action against Guy, and Woodcock v. Guy, 33 Wash. 234 (Wash. Nov. 16, 1903) became what appears to be the first trademark-related opinion published by the Washington Supreme Court. Because Woodcock had never registered the mark with the state, the Court referred to the principles of common law unfair competition. Unfortunately for Woodcock, although he adequately alleged that the words and goods were nearly identical, he failed to alleged precisely how he affixed the mark to his product, or how he was injured by Guy’s product, or that Guy had engaged in “fraudulent conduct” such as “palming off” GARGELINE as GARGLINE. Without such allegations, the complaint was nothing more than a request “to be protected in the exclusive use of a word.” The dismissal of the case was affirmed.

G.O. Guy’s business prospered in the years that followed, expanding even during the Great Depression and becoming a 12-store chain by the 1940’s. The chain was sold in 1987 to another company and rebranded “Pay ‘N Save.” The locations that survived under this new name eventually fell into the hands of Rite Aid. The Metropole building that housed Guy’s store is still there on the corner of 2nd Ave and Yesler, where it’s being turned into a boutique hotel. The Butler Hotel building (now known as the “Butler Block”), became home to one of Seattle’s most famous speakeasies, where waiter John Edmondson Prim saved his tips to pay for law school and became the first African American judge in Washington State. Considine later achieved respectability, establishing an empire of theatrical and cinema venues featuring dry and legal entertainment. His theater at Madison and Third Ave. gave rise to another trademark dispute, New York Life Ins. Co. v. Orpheum Theater & Realty, Co., 100 Wash. 573 (Wash. March 15, 1918), in which he was established as the owner of the ORPHEUM mark for Seattle theaters.

Special thanks to the following excellent sources, all of which were consulted for this blog series: Gary Flynn’s Brewerygems.com; Historylink.org, a free online encyclopedia of Washington state history; Blackpast.org, an online reference guide to African American History; librarian Alan Michelson’s Pacific Coast Architecture Database; the University of Washington library digital collection; the Orbis Cascade Alliance’s Archive West; Lost Restaurants of Seattle by Chuck Flood; the Pacific Shellfish Institute website; Historian Rob Ketcherside’s ba-kground blog; the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog; the DorpatSharrardLomont blog Seattle Now & Then Series; the Seattle Times; the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods website; and Seattle-Tacoma radio station KNKX.

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