Seattle Trademark History Tour, Part 5: The Store Where Your Credit Is Good

by Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition
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Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition

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 5. You can find the other nine parts of the series (once they are published) by clicking here.

The Store Where Your Credit is Good

August 16, 1912 Tacoma Times

Polish Jewish immigrant Alfred Shemanski started out by selling curtains door-to-door from a horse-drawn wagon, but his business grew. In 1887, he and brothers (Adolf and Joseph) founded a department store empire, which came to include locations up and down the west coast doing business under various marks, including PACIFIC OUTFITTING COMPANY, COLUMBIA OUTFITTING COMPANY and EASTERN OUTFITTING COMPANY. Historians have referred to Shemanski and other Jewish immigrants to the region as “urban pioneers,” because they were the first to link Washington’s small towns and big cities through commerce.

Shemanski formed the Eastern Outfitting Company of Seattle, Washington as a California Corporation. In 1902, he registered his business and its name as a foreign corporation with the Washington Secretary of State. The Eastern Outfitting Company of Seattle prospered at its 424 Pike Street location, offering “cloaks and suits, also gent’s clothing” on weekly and monthly installment plans. Eastern Outfitting was advertised as: “The Store Where Your Credit is Good.”

In 1909, Shemanski decided to expand the franchise to Spokane. However, he found that there was already a similar business there using the EASTERN OUTFITTING mark, which had been founded in 1905. Undeterred, and relying on his 1902 business registration with the Secretary of State, Shemanski opened a store in Spokane and advertised it as the only authentic “Eastern Outfitting Company.” Shemanski also decided to file suit against the local company and move to enjoin its use of the name. For the litigation, Shemanski hired attorney Samuel Rika Stern, who had given up a theatrical litigation practice in New York City (he represented, among others, the stage actress Fanny Davenport) to become a railroad lawyer.

But Spokane Superior Court Judge John D. Hinkle was unimpressed by Stern’s arguments and had a different view of the case. In Judge Hinkle’s view, Spokane was a different universe than Seattle. Owning a store in Seattle and having a fancy statewide corporate registration was no excuse for “invading” the territory of Spokane, confusing its citizens, and depriving the local defendant of its hard-earned good will. It was Shemanski, not the defendant, who was enjoined from using the EASTERN OUTFITTING mark in Spokane. Judge Hinkle’s decision was affirmed by Washington Supreme Court in Eastern Outfitting Co. v. Manheim, 59 Wash. 428 (Wash. July 28, 1910). Two justices dissented, arguing that, because Shemanski registered with the state, his territory was not Seattle but the entire state. Dissenting Justice George Morris wrote:

I do not comprehend upon what theory appellant can be clothed with greater powers in Seattle and less in Spokane.

In 1910, the same year the Washington Supreme Court’s decision issued, the Pike Street block where the original Eastern Outfitting Seattle store was located became the 10-story Northern Bank and Trust Building, which dominated the Seattle skyline for years (and is now known as the Seaboard building). As a result of the new building taking over the block, it appears that the store moved down the street to 388 Pike. Alfred Shemanski continued to be successful in business and active in civic participation. In 1933, he became the first Jew to be named a regent of the University of Washington. This news was important enough to be reported on page two of the February 6, 1933 edition of New York’s Jewish Daily Bulletin. Chillingly, page one was dominated by reports of the January 30 appointment a new German chancellor: Adolph Hitler.

Read the rest of the Seattle Trademark History Tour Series:

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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