Village Voice Media Sues Yelp
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Battle over the use of the phrase ‘Best of’
Trademarks and copyrights can be tricky territory, and Yelp is learning this the hard way after being hit with a lawsuit by Village Voice Media (VVM), parent company of The Village Voice, for using the term “Best of” on their website — a term for which VVM holds a trademark. The lawsuit cites a total of 10 cities in which Yelp used the phrase, including Phoenix, Houston, and Denver.
Village Voice Media previously sued Time Out New York over their annual “Best of” issue, ordering the destruction of all unsold copies. In that case, then-Voice publisher Tony Ortega mentioned that the magazine had owned a copyright on “Best of NYC” since 1955. The phrasing would suggest that only “Best of NYC” is covered, and not “Best of” in regards to any other city, and the end result had VVM dropping the suit after Time Out New York countersued, claiming that the term was generic.
Village Voice to Yelp: ‘Best of’ belongs to us — now pay up!
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The voice of reason, The Village Voice is not.
“Best of” lists are everywhere, but the Voice has decided to lay claim to the “best of” phrase, and it’s suing reviews company Yelp for use of the presence of these seemingly generic words on its website.
Village Voice Media Holding owns the registered trademarks for “Best of Dallas,” “Best of San Francisco,” “Best of Seattle,” and several more city-themed “best of” phrases. It filled suit against Yelp last week for infringing on 10 of its “best of” marks, and it’s asking for treble damages (or triple the amount of revenue Yelp makes from infringing on the marks), attorneys’ fees, and an injunction to prevent Yelp from continuing to use the “best of” marks.
The Village Voice said that it sells advertising against its web pages running “best of” lists. Yelp, the Voice argued in the suit, is hurting the publication’s capability to generate revenue, harming the Voice‘s reputation and causing consumer confusion. The Voice will be damaged by “loss of reader loyalty, adverting sales, and profits,” according to the document.
Why Yelp in particular? Part of the problem, it would seem, is that the Village Voice has iPhone and Android apps that dole out the “best” recommendations for things to do and see in cities across the U.S. Care to hazard a guess as to what that app is called? That’s right, it’s called “Best Of,” and it competes head-on with Yelp in the local recommendations category.
This isn’t the first time the Voice has gone after a “best of” infringer. Paidcontent pointed out that Village Voice Media Holding sued Time Out New York last year.
The Yelp suit is below. I won’t lie — it’s not a titillating read, unless, of course, you take pleasure in flamboyantly worded (and laughable?) accusations such as this: “Yelp has irreparably damaged the valuable reputation and goodwill of VVMH and its ‘Best of’ marks.”
Voice Media Group Settles Trademark Infringement Lawsuit Against Yelp
Voice Media Group has settled its trademark infringement lawsuit against Yelp.
The suit, filed in Arizona on October 25, accused Yelp of a trademark infringement after Yelp's use of the federally registered trademarks "Best of Phoenix," "Best of Dallas," "Best of Denver," "Best of Houston," "Best of St. Louis," "Best of Miami," "Best of San Francisco," "Best of the Twin Cities," "Best of Seattle," and "Best of Broward/Palm Beach."
Yelp has agreed to revert to the phrase it used before this dispute arose: "Best of Yelp: [City Name]."
Voice Media Group is comprised of 13 AAN members, including L.A. Weekly, Miami New Times, Phoenix New Times, and The Village Voice.
But AAN members in cities all over the U.S. and Canada have "Best of" Issues, often with events, products and promotional items. At Voice Media Group publications, the official winners are chosen through a carefully curated editorial process readers also make their own picks in select categories via a popular 'Readers' Poll,' as opposed to Yelp's questionable rating and review practices.
"This is the best possible outcome not only for the 13 Voice Media Group news outlets, but also the alternative newsweekly industry in general," said Scott Tobias, CEO of Voice Media group. "It is a key part of our business and our media brands."
Alternative newsweeklies in cities large and small are a trusted brand and curator for arts and culture reviews and information. This brand loyalty is extended by the "Best of" issues, websites and mobile apps.
Tobias explains, "'Best of' is a trusted source of information. It really has become its own franchise — an opportunity for our advertisers and community partners to showcase what they do well. It generates multiple revenue and marketing opportunities for trusted partners both local businesses and national retailers. But it's more than that. It's also a celebration of our cities, of the communities that we cover, that we live in and we take huge pride in."
Here is the official press release from Voice Media Group:
DENVER, November 8, 2012 -- Village Voice Media and its successor company Voice Media Group announced today the settlement of a trademark infringement lawsuit against Yelp.
On October 25, VVM filed a civil complaint against Yelp in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. That suit accused Yelp of trademark infringement arising from Yelp's recent redesign and use on its website of the federally registered trademarks "Best of Phoenix," "Best of Dallas," "Best of Denver," "Best of Houston," "Best of St. Louis," "Best of Miami," "Best of San Francisco," "Best of the Twin Cities," "Best of Seattle," and "Best of Broward/Palm Beach."
Moving forward, those trademarks will be the property of Voice Media Group, which announced its intent to purchase VVM's publication assets in September.
Yelp has now agreed to stop using the trademarks and has reverted to the phrase it used before this dispute arose: "Best of Yelp: [City Name]."
In exchange, the lawsuit was dismissed.
Voice Media Group has a strong economic interest in protecting its exclusive right to use these trademarks in the markets where it does business and the federal courts have upheld that legal position in the past. A similar lawsuit was brought in 2000 against Ticketmaster. In that case, the federal court affirmed the strength of the "Best Of" trademarks, and Ticketmaster ultimately ceased its use of the "Best Of" trademark. In addition, Time Out magazine was sued in 2011 for its use of "Best of NYC."
The "Best Of" marks began more than three decades ago when Phoenix New Times began using its mark for "Best of Phoenix." Since then, millions of dollars have been spent supporting these marks and establishing "Best Of" issues as highly anticipated local events. Publicity for each issue starts two to three months before publication extensive advertising campaigns are conducted via billboards, bus boards, cab tops, radio and television advertising and of course print and web ads. "Best Of" parties draw thousands of readers and winners. Once distributed, the print issues often take up long-term residence on desks and coffee tables throughout the market as readers use them as the definitive guide to what's great about their town. And the print edition's online companion becomes a year-round reference for what to do, where to go and what to see.
Each Voice Media Group newspaper also creates and distributes special winners' plaques for display in homes, offices or places of business. Many businesses subsequently use these awards as focal points for their own marketing and advertising campaigns--such as the 100-foot-tall sign owned by the Talking Stick Casino and Resort, which stands adjacent to one of Phoenix's busiest freeways and is seen by tens of thousands of people daily.
That long "Best Of" tradition in Phoenix and other VMG markets is one reason the company's "Best Of" program has become a textbook example of what is known in the world of trademark law as "secondary meaning." According to that principle, what may appear to be a simple, common phrase can over time become intimately associated with a specific event and publication, and can therefore be trademarked. Significantly, many of these trademarks are deemed "incontestable" pursuant to federal law.
"Our newspapers' 'Best Of' issues and websites are recognized as special by readers and establishments in all of the cities in which we publish," said Scott Tobias, VMG's president and chief executive officer. "We have a great program and a great series of trademarks, and we will continue to protect our trademarks."
Village Voice Slaps Yelp With Lawsuit Over ‘Best Of’ Phrase
Village Voice Media Holdings on Thursday sued the review website Yelp over the use of the phrase “best of,” which it has long used for its chain of alternative weeklies.
In a lawsuit filed in Arizona federal court, the company is claiming ownership of the phrase in reference to local restaurants and other business in the cities it serves. The suit names 10 local “best of” series (“Best of Seattle,” “Best of Denver,” “Best of Dallas,” etc), each of which the company has trademarked.
The special issues in question are often the biggest of the year for the weeklies, bringing in additional advertising dollars from local bars, restaurants and other business. The winning businesses often display the “Best Of” plaques in their establishments, thereby providing year-round free advertising for the Village Voice and its sister publications. Village Voice Media also owns a “Best Of” iPhone app, which it launched in 2011.
Yelp publishes “best of” listings for numerous cities. In the lawsuit, Village Voice Media claims it became aware of the listings in September.
A Yelp spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The earliest “best of” references named in the lawsuit date back to 1979, or 25 years before Yelp was founded. According to the lawsuit, Yelp’s use of the phrase “best of” is likely to cause “confusion, mistake and deception of customers as to the source of Yelp’s goods and services in light of [Village Voice Media’s] Registered Marks.”
The suit goes on to add that Village Voice Media “has been and will be damaged by a loss of reader loyalty, advertising sales and profits.”
The company is seeking profits from Yelp’s “best of” advertising as well an injunction to prohibit the website from using the phrase in the future.
This is the second time in less than a year that the Voice publisher has sued over “best of.” In November 2011, the company sued Time Out New York over the latter publication’s annual “Best of NYC” issue. Village Voice Media bought the trademark to “Best of NYC” in 2008. Time Out New York, however, countersued, claiming that the phrase is generic and that the trademark should never have been awarded. The Voice reportedly abandoned its fight earlier this year.
That lawsuit, like the new one, attracted much derision from new-media news outlets such as PaidContent and VentureBeat, which saw the complaint as a desperate attempt by an old-media bully to hold on to what few sources of lucrative advertising it has left.
The “Best in NYC” trademark is not named in the Yelp lawsuit.
As was reported by IBTimes in September, Village Voice Media has agreed to sell off its stable of alt-weeklies to the newly formed Voice Media Group, which is being headed up by CEO Scott Tobias. It’s unclear when that deal will be finalized, but Voice Media Group is not mentioned in Thursday’s lawsuit.
Village Voice Owner Voice Media Group Relaunches BestOf Smartphone App In Bid To Challenge Yelp
In an continuing push to reinvent itself for the digital generation, Voice Media Group, parent company of the Village Voice and 10 other alt-weekly newspapers, relaunched its BestOf app on Monday. The app, available as a free download for iOS devices and Android devices, includes local city data for the 11 markets served by Voice print publications as well as for 21 other markets.
The move represents one of the Denver-based company’s most ambitious incursions into the digital terrain since it was founded last year by three executives of Village Voice Media Holdings. That company, which had owned the Voice and its sister publications since 2005, has had a troubled relationship with online properties. Backpage.com, its Craigslist-style classified website, was repeatedly accused of enabling child-sex trafficking on its Adult Services section.
Scott Tobias, Voice Media Group’s co-founder and chief officer, vowed a fresh start when he announced a buyout of the newspapers in September 2012, leaving Backpage.com behind and focusing on the company’s core brands, which have struggled to retain their relevance in the 21st century.
In a statement Monday, Tobias said the new BestOf app comes with an overhauled functionality that creates a location-based user experience. The app gives users recommendations on nearby things to do and see nearby, with results powered by a combination of readers and Voice editors.
“It completely simplifies the process of finding the best places to go in a way that just makes sense,” Tobias said.
It remains to be seen whether the app will help the Voice compete in a market dominated by Yelp Inc. (NYSE:YELP), whose ubiquitous user-generated reviews and ratings attract roughly 100 million unique visitors a month. The company, which generates the bulk of its revenue from local businesses, is simultaneously one of the most powerful and most reviled companies on the Web, sparking extortion charges from angry merchants who say they are punished for not advertising on the site.
In October 2012, the Voice’s previous owner sued Yelp over the use of the phrase “Best Of,” which it said it has been using since 1979. The lawsuit was “settled to the satisfaction of the parties” less than a month later, according to Law 360. In 2011, the Voice also sued Time Out New York over its annual “Best of NYC” issue. Village Voice Media bought the trademark to “Best of NYC” in 2008. Time Out New York countersued, however, claiming that the phrase is generic and that the trademark should never have been awarded. The Voice reportedly abandoned that fight, according to PaidContent.
The new BestOf not only gives the Voice a change to re-establish its ownership of the phrase (many commentators derided the copyright lawsuits as frivolous), it also helps it to continue testing its reach in markets where it does not currently have a presence -- including large markets such as Washington, San Diego, Philadelphia and elsewhere. It also represents a homecoming of sorts to cities such as San Francisco and Seattle, both of which are home to alt-weeklies formerly owned by Voice Media Group.
LNG Energy Solutions Accused of Infringing Marlin Gas Patent
LNG Energy Solutions LLC, a project of the Idaho National Laboratory, Rice Energy, and R-V Industries Inc., was sued for patent infringement by Marlin Gas Transport Inc.
The suit, filed Oct. 24 in federal court in Tampa, Florida, accused LNG of Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, of infringing patent 6,953,045. That patent, issued in October 2005, covers a system for the delivery of compressed natural gas.
Marlin Gas of Whiteland, Indiana, said LNG is making, using or selling infringing gas delivery systems. This alleged infringement had deprived Marlin of sales it would have otherwise made, and profits it would have earned, the company said in its pleadings.
It asked the court for an order barring further unauthorized use of its patented technology, together with money damages, and asked that those damages be tripled to punish LNG for its actions. Additionally, it seeks awards of attorney fees and litigation costs.
LNG didn’t respond immediately to an e-mailed request for comment.
The case is Marlin Gas Transport Inc. v. LNG Energy Solutions LLC, 8:12-cv-02431-EAK-TGW, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Tampa).
Dow Chemical Fights Off Challenge to $61.7 Million Nova Verdict
The U.S. Supreme Court left intact a $61.7 million verdict won by Dow Chemical Co. in a patent fight with Nova Chemicals Corp. over the plastic used in grocery bags.
The justices yesterday rejected an appeal by two Nova units found to have infringed patents held by Dow, the largest U.S. chemical company. The patents cover polymers that are thinner and stronger than conventional plastic.
Nova, owned by Abu Dhabi-based International Petroleum Investment Co., argued unsuccessfully that Dow had transferred the patents to a holding company and no longer had the legal right to enforce them.
The award has grown with interest, and Dow has said it will seek additional damages for infringement in later years and in Canada.
A federal jury in Wilmington, Delaware, sided with Dow in 2010, and the federal appeals court that handles patent cases upheld the verdict. Dow is based in Midland, Michigan.
The case is Nova v. Dow, 12-243, U.S. Supreme Court (Washington).
For more patent news, click here.
Village Voice Dismisses Trademark-Infringement Suit Against Yelp
Village Voice Media Holdings LLC ’s trademark-infringement suit against Yelp Inc. has settled less than two weeks after it was filed.
The suit, filed in federal court in Arizona Oct. 25, had accused San Francisco-based Yelp of infringing the Voice’s st of” trademarks. The newspaper publisher said it has been using these marks since 1979, and registered them with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The Phoenix-based publisher objected to Yelp’s use of st of Phoenix,” st of San Francisco,” st of Miami,” and similar terms on its Web pages. To no avail, the Voice said it sent Yelp a cease-and-desist letter on Sept. 18.
Yelp is the operator of the social networking user-review site, and the Voice claimed that through the unauthorized use of the trademarks, the San Francisco company was causing confusion in the marketplace, and unfairly piggybacked on the fame and goodwill the Voice has developed for its trademarks.
In its Nov. 11 filing, the Voice said simply that the parties had reached an agreement and that it was voluntarily dismissing the suit. Each party was to pay its own legal costs.
The case is Village Voice Media Holdings LLC v. Yelp Inc., 2:12-cv-02285-MHB, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).
Strange Brewing Told by Strange Brew Company to Change Name
Strange Brewing Co., a Denver-based craft brewery, has been threatened with a trademark infringement suit by a Massachusetts company that sells home-brewing supplies, Denver’s Westword newspaper reported.
Strange Brew Beer & Wine Making Supplies of Marlboro, Massachusetts, sent the brewery a letter warning that its customers were confused by the similarity of the names, and demanding that Strange Brewing change its name, according to Westword.
The brewery responded, noting there are numerous instances to be found on the Internet of companies with “Strange Brew” in at least part of their names, and offering a license agreement with the brewing-supplies company, according to the newspaper.
Westword published the Massachusetts company’s response letter in which it said that the license offer was “offensive,” and warning that if the brewery didn’t change its name, there would be “ formal legal action without further notice.”
For more trademark news, click here.
Street Fight Daily: Apple Exec Exits Over Maps, Village Voice Sues Yelp
An Apple Exit Over Maps (Wall Street Journal)
Apple executive Scott Forstall was asked to leave the company after he refused to sign his name to a letter apologizing for shortcomings in Apple’s new mapping service, according to people familiar with the matter. In deciding how to manage the maps crisis, Mr. Forstall argued that the company could address the outcry without apologizing, as Apple had done when it shipped iPhones with faulty antennas a few years ago, one source said.
Village Voice Sues Yelp for Using “Best of” (PaidContent)
The publisher of one-time counter-culture icon The Village Voice is expanding its legal campaign to own the phrase “best of.” The Voice’s publisher now wants Yelp to pay triple damages for using the “best of” monicker in relation 10 cities, including Miami, St Louis and Dallas. The complaint also seeks an injunction against Yelp.
Could Sandy be Instagram’s Big Citizen Journalism Moment? (Pando Daily)
Hurricane Sandy — or Frankenstorm Apocalpyse as it’s being called on Foursquare — could be Instagram’s big citizen journalism moment. The time when the seemingly frivolous app could get some Arab Spring-style gravitas. Just like the last three Presidential elections have been transformed by a new social media service — YouTube, Facebook and now Twitter — natural disasters and tragedies are emerging as a way for social media services to gain respect and legitimacy as world-changing agents as well.
Google Now: Behind the Predictive Future of Search (The Verge)
That vision of an all-knowing smartphone hasn’t come to pass, yet, but features like Apple’s Siri and Google Now offer a keyhole peek into a near future reality where your phone is more “Personal Assistant” than “Bar bet settler.” The difference is that the former actually understands what you need while the latter is a blunt search instrument.
Proposed Rule Changes Could Bring Uber’s Taxi Service Back to NYC (Venture Beat)
Ready to get hip to today’s mobile times, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission today proposed regulations that would finally allow app makers to legally operate electronic taxi hail and payment systems in the city. If passed, the rules could do away with the ongoing tension between the TLC and avant garde San Francisco-based startup Uber.
Businesses dependent on Yelp cry for help: More extortion lawsuits for review giant
Yelp, the fast-growing and highly-popular local reviews Web site, is fighting off more charges that the company manipulates its reviews to encourage advertisers.
A former Yelp employee who requested to remain anonymous told CultureMap that "In my personal experience I heard from many small business owners about their positive, 5-star reviews disappearing without explanation other than the famous 'Yelp Algorithm' story. I have been told by some of these same business owners that once they became advertisers on the site, the problem of disappearing positive reviews stopped or dropped off."
According to TechCrunch.com, the latest lawsuit was filed as a class action in San Francisco by Boris Levitt, the owner of Renaissance Furniture Restoration there. Levitt alleges in the suit that Yelp participates in "unfair and unethical conduct in promoting, marketing and advertising its website as maintaining non-biased reviews."
Specifically, Levitt has filed charges alleging violations of business and professions codes, negligent misrepresentation and intentional misrepresentation.
The suit states, "Once a business is actively receiving reviews on Yelp, Yelp starts to manipulate the overall rating and presentation of a business by deleting positive reviews from the business page and/or posting negative reviews to the top of the review page. After the overall rates or/and presentation of the business decline, Defendant will contact the businesses and offer the opportunity to purchase advertising.
"If the business declines Yelp's offer, Yelp continues to manipulate the overall rating by removing most of the positive reviews, which causes the business's overall star rating to fall. Once a business's reviews are manipulated by Yelp, the business itself is impacted by either by loss of revenue or by the requirement of paying hundreds of dollars for advertising each month on Yelp."
This lawsuit is the third in recent weeks, and one, filed in Los Angeles by Miami firm Beck & Lee and The Weston Firm in San Diego, has expanded to nine plaintiffs from across the country alleging explicit extortion in addition to similar unfair business practices.
“We believe that Yelp’s sales tactics amount to high-tech extortion,” Jared H. Beck, co-managing partner of Beck & Lee Business Trial Lawyers, said in a statement.
These court cases come just over a year after Kathleen Richards of the East Bay Express, a Village Voice-affiliated alt-weekly paper, published an explosive exposé about Yelp detailing claims of extortion by sales reps.
Yelp's CEO Jeremy Stoppelman responded to the lawsuit allegations via the Yelp blog and denied any wrongdoing.
"There has been a long history of people accusing Yelp of monkeying around with reviews in exchange for money. The allegations are disappointing, not only because they are false, but because they ignore empirical evidence in favor of conspiracy theories . We know this lawsuit to be without merit, we will fight it vigorously, and we are confident we will prevail," Stoppelman said.
The Village Voice Rises From the Dead
The owner of LA Weekly, another independent publication, plans to restart The Voice next month. In addition to reviving the website, Brian Calle plans a quarterly print edition.
The Village Voice, the storied New York alt-weekly that shut down in 2018 after a 63-year run, will live again.
Brian Calle, the chief executive of Street Media, the owner of LA Weekly, said on Tuesday that he had acquired the publication from its publisher, Peter D. Barbey.
“I think a lot of people will be hungry for this and I’m superoptimistic,” Mr. Calle said in an interview.
He added that he planned to restart The Voice’s website in January and would publish a “comeback” print edition early next year, with quarterly print issues to follow. On Tuesday he hired Bob Baker, a former Voice editor, as a senior editor and content coordinator. Mr. Calle said he wanted to bring back more former staff members who know the paper’s tone. He has not yet named an editor in chief.
The Voice, a mainstay of the independent journalism scene until it wasn’t, was founded in 1955 by Dan Wolf, Edwin Fancher and Norman Mailer. It was home to the dogged investigative reporter Wayne Barrett the jazz critic and free-speech columnist Nat Hentoff the early rock critic Richard Goldstein the feminist cultural critic Jill Johnston the nightlife columnist Michael Musto and the groundbreaking hip-hop writers Nelson George and Greg Tate.
Generations of New Yorkers found their first apartments through its seemingly endless classified section. The paper grew thinner over the years, as Craigslist cut into its revenue, and bloggers and early digital sites chipped away at its cultural position.
In 2015 it was sold by the Voice Media Group to Mr. Barbey, an heir to an American retail empire whose family owned The Reading Eagle newspaper in Pennsylvania for generations until 2019. He vowed to revitalize the paper, but in August 2017 he took it digital only and shuttered it a year later.
Mr. Calle said he had eyed The Voice for several years and got in touch with Mr. Barbey about buying the paper in recent months. “I literally just cold-called him and I said, ‘Hey, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Village Voice and a lot about journalism in the context of this year and I feel like we need to figure out a way to bring it back,’” he said.
“We had roughly half a dozen calls, just talking about the history of The Voice and getting to know each other, because he views himself as a kind of a steward and was just waiting for someone to come along.”
Mr. Barbey said he had been approached by a number of prospective owners.
“I originally bought The Village Voice to see if we could save it in a different media era,” he said. “Brian called and we talked for a while. After thinking about it, I figured he had the best philosophy about how to move forward with The Village Voice.”
The terms of the deal were not disclosed. In a news release, Street Media said the acquisition did not include the Obie Awards, the Off Broadway honors that will continue to be presented by the American Theater Wing.
Mr. Calle has experience running an alt-weekly, but his time as publisher and chief executive at LA Weekly has not been without incident. Formerly an opinion editor for The Orange County Register in California and other newspapers, Mr. Calle bought LA Weekly with a group of investors in 2017 from the Voice Media Group. (From 2012 to 2017, the Voice Media Group owned LA Weekly in addition to its flagship paper in New York.)
LA Weekly’s newsroom was quickly gutted after the sale, and former writers organized a boycott of the paper, pressing advertisers and other journalists to cut ties. Mara Shalhoup, the editor in chief of LA Weekly when Mr. Calle bought it, said that nearly the entire newsroom staff was fired. Ms. Shalhoup, who next week will start as ProPublica’s South editor, said she felt LA Weekly was not as focused on serious journalism after the acquisition by Mr. Calle.
“I think my opinion is shared by the community of readers in Los Angeles,” she said. “It was not the same quality publication after he purchased it as it was before.”
In 2018, David Welch, one of the investors, sued Mr. Calle and the other LA Weekly backers, alleging that they had mismanaged the paper. The suit was settled in 2019.
“That lawsuit was settled and we both went our separate ways,” Mr. Calle said. Speaking more generally of the detractors of LA Weekly under his leadership, he said, “I think the proof is in the results, which is that we’re still around and we’re on a nice trajectory.”
He added that the paper he acquired on Tuesday “will honor the traditions of The Village Voice of yesteryear.”
Mr. Calle said he planned to start a Voice podcast and increase the publication’s social media presence while looking for new revenue streams. He said he also envisioned The Voice performing a critical role of alt-weeklies: acting as a watchdog of mainstream media outlets.
Since The Voice stopped publishing new content in September 2018, the website has been periodically updated with articles pulled from its archives. Some staff members stayed on to work on building a digital archive. Mr. Calle said he and Mr. Barbey planned to donate The Voice’s print archives to a “major New York public institution” in the coming months.
'Best of' phrase at center of lawsuit
Can a company claim ownership of a phrase as commonplace as "best of"?
Publisher Village Voice Media, which covers restaurants, entertainment, shopping, events, and other categories for its various local publications across the country, including SF Weekly, would answer in the affirmative.
The media company says it has exclusive rights to the phrase in 10 such instances, including "Best of Phoenix" and "Best of Twin Cities," and is now is suing online review site Yelp for using these registered marks.
"If we were trying to go around and say you can't say 'best of' anything, in your life, that would be pretty ridiculous," said Village Voice Media attorney Steven Suskin. Village Voice Media "just has a strong interest in protecting its trademarks, Best of Phoenix, Best of Denver, etc."
San Francisco's Yelp declined a request for an interview.
This is not the first time Village Voice Media has taken legal action for these trademarks. In 2011, the company sued Time Out New York for its annual "Best of NYC." It settled the suit in April, and Suskin says Time Out New York will no longer publish the issue under that name.
Also, in 2000 - when Village Voice Media was called New Times Media and Citysearch was part of Ticketmaster Online-Citysearch - the court found that "Best of Phoenix" was a trademark of New Times Media and prohibited Citysearch from using it. Citysearch.com, now owned by CityGrid Media, today has "Best of Citysearch" listings.
Are other "best of" franchises endangered? Here are just a small handful of other city publications that use the phrase:
-- New York magazine's "Best of New York": Includes eating, fun nightlife, home help, shopping, health self, and kids.