A feud has erupted over a phrase that has been associated with Altadena for at least 50 years.
Meredith and Michael Miller, who own and operate Webster’s Community Pharmacy, claim they own the trademark to the phrase “Beautiful Altadena” due to its usage on license plate frames sold at Webster’s dating back to the 1980s, long before the couple purchased the business in 2010.
The license plate frames were created by Bill Webster, the son of Frank Webster who started the business back in 1926.
“They brought the business and the inventory, but no intellectual property rights or family history was transferred,” said Lori Webster, who is married to Bill’s son, Scott.
For decades, Lori and Scott owned and operated a gift shop at Webster’s where they sold items bearing the “Beautiful Altadena” slogan.
They were evicted in 2013 and opened another store HOOPLA on Fair Oaks Avenue where they continue to sell merchandise with the “Beautiful Altadena,” slogan.
According to documents obtained by the Pasadena Weekly, 2M Pharmacy Inc., the parent company of Webster’s Community Pharmacy, was registered in September for keychains, paper products, bar ware, tote bags and some apparel products. The trademark does not give the Millers exclusive use of the slogan on artwork and social media. A Beautiful Altadena page has been up on Facebook for several years.
On April 12, the Websters received a cease and desist letter explaining they could either no longer use the slogan or pay a licensing fee.
“Your use of the Beautiful Altadena (trademark) is an act of trademark infringement, unfair competition and false advertising in violation of United States federal laws and/or California state law,” the letter reads.
A trademark is a work, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination that identifies and distinguishes the source of goods of one party from those of others, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Trademarks must possess two key elements. They must protect commercial products and services, and the trademarks must identify the source of goods and services.
A business owner must also be able to prove that the public identifies the trademark with particular goods or service and with the business as the source of those goods or services.
The phrase “Beautiful Altadena” has long been associated with the community and has been used on marquees and even painted on several curbsides.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed out tote bags with the slogan on them years before the Millers purchased the pharmacy.
“Various civic groups, including the county of Los Angeles, have used it on books, posters, license plate frames, shirts and tote bags,” said former Altadena Town Councilman Steve Lamb. “They are attempting to trademark our community property and steal it. This won’t do wonders for their business.”