Like father, like son, as the saying goes. Unless the son is too much like the father, and both are lawyers, in which case the father might sue the son for trademark infringement.
That’s the case with a pair of South Carolina lawyers. The father-son combo, both named George Sink, used to work together. But when George Sink Jr. left the firm in February, he launched his own practice with a similar name. The move constitutes trademark infringement, unfair competition, cybersquatting, unfair trade practice, and dilution, the elder Sink alleges in a new lawsuit.
Until February 2019, both men worked at George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers, a large South Carolina firm with a catchy advertising jingle, according to Charleston’s Post and Courier. A lawyer like his father, Sink Jr. began handling client cases in March 2018 until his termination in February 2019, according to the lawsuit.
“George Sink PA Injury Lawyers® has been forced to bring suit to protect consumers of legal services,” the elder Sink’s lawyers told The Daily Beast in a statement. “The marks exist to protect consumers from the confusion and misdirection caused by infringement. The lawsuit is intended to serve these consumer interests.”
The suit does not state why Sink Jr. lost his job.
But days after the termination, the son launched an LLC. And recently, the elder Sink learned his son was using “the designation GEORGE SINK II in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution, and/or marketing of legal services in the same geographical regions as Plaintiff—namely, South Carolina and Georgia,” the lawsuit alleges.
George Sink Jr. might be the son’s legal name—but it’s weird for him to use it, his father alleges.
“To the extent ‘George T. Sink, Jr.’ is Ted Sink’s legal name, on information and belief, Ted Sink has throughout his life preferred the use of his middle name and gone by ‘Ted’ or ‘Teddy,’” the suit alleges. It includes pictures of social media were the son goes by “Ted.”
“The goal is not to keep ‘Ted’ Sink from practicing law,” his father’s lawyers said in their statement. “He’s been a lawyer for two and one-half years, and we wish him well with his new law firm. However, when consumers look for George Sink PA Injury Lawyers®, they must be confident they will find the firm they seek.”
But Sink Jr. has every right to call himself by his legal name, his lawyers say.
"This is the name that appears on his birth certificate, driver’s license, Yale undergraduate degree and on his law degree, as well as on his licenses to practice law in South Carolina and Georgia," they told The Daily Beast in a statement.
"It was George Sink, Sr. who first introduced George Sink, Jr. to the legal community as George Sink. Whether trademark law permits a father to take back his son’s name or restrict his right to practice law is an issue we would forward to litigating through the Courts."
Furthermore, the elder Sink has referred to his son as "George" in old commercials. One tv commercial, uploaded to YouTube last year shows the father and son standing side by side.
"I'm attorney George Sink," the elder says, and this is my son.
"Attorney George Sink," the younger introduces himself.
The ad spells their names as "George Sink" and "George Sink Jr."
His father, meanwhile, says the common names have been a nightmare for Google searches.
“As a result of the overlap in the business names and geographical location of Plaintiff’s and Defendants’ Google business listings, Plaintiff’s business listing was flagged by Google and suspended,” the suit alleges. The older company’s Google listing allegedly disappeared for two weeks, wiping out more than 600 positive reviews until the firm could restore it.
Meanwhile, search results appear positive for Sink Jr. Since the lawsuit was first reported by local outlets this week, the George Sink II Law Firm has received its first two Google reviews, both five stars. Neither user left a comment. Google does not check reviews for authenticity.
The younger Sink’s firm has its own website. At the bottom, along with standard legal jargon, the page also includes an unusual disclaimer:
“This firm is not at all associated with George Sink, P.A. Injury Lawyers or George Sink, Sr. (well, besides the founder of George Sink Law Firm, LLC being the son of and former employee of George Sink, Sr.).”