The Village Voice made its name as a counter culture icon. Today, though, it pulled a decidedly establishment maneuver by filing a lawsuit against a magazine rival for using the phrase “Best of NYC” without its permission.
In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, the publisher of the Village Voice claimed that the Nov. 3 issue of *Time* Out New York infringed its trademark rights. The issue in question has the phrase “Best of NYC” on its cover in sparkly lights and includes a series of recommendations for categories like “Off-Broadway” and “Place to hang out with cute lesbians.”
To fix the problem, the Village Voice publisher wants the magazine to hand over its profits and for the court to grant an order directing *Time* Out New York to “recall and destroy or surrender” the offending magazines. The Village Voice’s claim may be a long shot — the term “Best of” is about as unique as New York’s ubiquitous Ray’s Pizza joints.
“My first reaction is that it sounds like a hard claim to prove,” said Gianni Servodidio, a trademark expert at the firm Jenner & Block. He added that *Time* Out New York can beat the claim by persuading a judge that the mark is generic or descriptive. If the court finds that “Best of NYC” is generic, it can kill the mark altogether.
The lawsuit comes at a time of ongoing controversies surrounding the Village Voice and larger questions about its relevance. The publication, launched in 1955 by Norman Mailer and two others, was for decades an intellectual icon that attracted a stable of famous literary figures like Allen Ginsberg and R. Crumb. In recent years, though, its influence has waned as its audience has branched out to other publications like *Time* Out, Gothamist.com and New York magazine (whose “Best of” section can be found here).