Fla. veteran calls U-Haul's claim to phrase 'moving help' unfair
By CLEVELAND TINKER | The Gainesville Sun (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 26, 2018
A local veteran who owns a moving company that only hires veterans is determined not to let a major moving company hurt his ability to find clients.
The phrases "moving help" and "moving helpers" are at the center of a cease-and-desist letter U-Haul sent in December to Gregory Sledge, an Army veteran and owner of Veterans Moving Help in Gainesville. The letter demanded he shut down his website, www.veteransmovinghelp.com, and surrender his uniform resource locator (URL) to U-Haul. A URL is the global address of sites on the Internet.
"I was in disbelief when I received the cease-and-desist letter in an email because it seems to me the words 'moving help' and 'moving helpers' shouldn't be able to be trademarked," said Sledge, 53. "I was shocked they would have the audacity to come after me with this after already going after others for using those phrases."
U-Haul obtained its trademarks for "moving help" in 2004 and in 2007 for "moving helper," Sebastian Reyes, vice president of communications for U-Haul, wrote in an email to The Sun.
"We would like Mr. Sledge to continue his business and provide service to his customers," Reyes said. "However, we ask that he respect our trademark rights by either discontinuing to use our trademarks in marketing his services or by obtaining a license to use the trademarks."
Since 2010, U-Haul has protected the trademarks more than 100 times, Reyes said.
It's unreasonable for U-Haul officials to think they can control the use of the phrases because they are necessary for moving businesses to describe their services, Sledge said.
His website is still in operation, and U-Haul has sent him another letter saying they want to reach an amicable agreement with him to resolve the matter, said Sledge, who started his business in 2013 after successfully completing business management training through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development's Veterans' Affairs Supportive Housing program, which is designed to help homeless veterans transition into permanent housing.
Sledge said he served in the U.S. Army in Korea from 1984 to 1987, and was homeless for a time after his stint in the Army.
He said he's going to fight to get U-Haul's trademark of the phrases reversed because he thinks it's the right thing to do.
"The whole thing about it is that it's wrong," Sledge said. "It's legal, but it's not right. At one time slavery was legal, but it wasn't right."
His company, which has branches throughout the United States, employs veterans to help people load and unload moving trucks.
The company has four part-time employees locally, Sledge said, and connects veterans through his website with people across the nation who need help moving.
Sledge, a native of Enfeld, North Carolina, said he's up to the challenge he's faced with.
"I'm willing to fight for my rights and other veterans to be able to compete fairly in the marketplace," Sledge said.
The idea for U-Haul was conceived in 1945 by a Navy veteran and his wife as World War II was ending, and many of its employees were veterans in the company's early years. U-Haul is the original veterans moving company and directs much of its philanthropic efforts to veteran organizations and initiatives, Reyes said.
"The responsibility of protecting a trademark falls on the shoulders of the individual or company that owns the trademark," Reyes said. "Sending cease-and-desist letters is part of that protection process. It is also the responsibility of others to look up current trademarks before branding their business, products or services. That simple step makes these situations avoidable."
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