Donut Wars: The Battle of Holey vs. Holy

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -A Klamath Falls donut shop is changing its name after a lawsuit was filed on the other side of the country. The Klamath Falls donut shop has only been open for about a year, but its name is similar to another donut shop in Maine.

The feud is between Holey Donuts Cafe in Klamath Falls and The Holy Donut in Portland, Maine. The Klamath Falls shop told NBC5 News the name similarity was unintentional. However, the Portland, Maine shop said they’ve had a year to change it.

“We never intended to infringe on his trademark. We did the research ahead of time,” said Michelle Newton, Co-Owner of the former Holey Donuts Cafe.

Now Holey Donuts Cafe in Klamath Falls is being forced to change the name.

“All of our signage has been taken off the buildings. It’s actually blank right now while we try to think of a name,” said Newton.

Michelle and Chris Newton said they chose the name Holey Donuts after one of their grandchildren came up with the name.

“If it hadn’t been for that we probably wouldn’t have held out quite so long to just change it,” said Newton.

It wasn’t long before their name got the attention of The Holy Donut in Portland, Maine.

“For us, it’s holes and holy. I know that’s it’s close, but it’s just not the same word. We felt safe enough that we thought it was okay,” said Newton.

The message from the Maine donut shop asked the Newton’s to either change their name or sign a coexistence agreement, allowing them to keep the name, but would prevent them from opening a second location.

The couple admits they didn’t comply. To them, the words had different meanings.

“We fully believe that a hole was not the same as God,” said Newton.

But in this case, it didn’t matter. Jeff Buckwalter, the CEO of The Holy Donut in Portland, Maine had already trademarked several differently spelled versions of the phrase ‘Holy Donut’.

When Newton’s tried to open a food truck last year under the same name, it got serious. Buckwalter’s company filed a lawsuit in

Buckwalter declined an interview request but released a lengthy statement.

We would like to provide some clarity around the suit we chose to file against Holey Donut Cafe in Oregon.
We trademarked our company name to protect the brand we are building as many businesses do. One of the realities of owning a trademark is that you are bound and obligated to defend it. If you choose not to, you will lose your rights to it. Our trademark covers our logo design as well as several phonetically similar versions of Holy Donut, including “Holey.”
One of the primary reasons for trademarking a brand is to help prevent consumer confusion from similar looking or sounding brands. In today’s digital age we have had several instances where we were confused with other Holy Donuts from as far away as Hawaii and Arizona. These instances of confusion spurred discussions with these entities that were using our trademark.
Through the years, we have had an obligation to approach other shops that were using our trademarked name and find a resolution that would work for both our companies. When approached most everyone is agreeable to changing their name as they understand the nature of trademarking. We have chosen to enter into coexistence agreements with several entities that are outside of New England that have agreed to not add additional locations. In exchange, we allow for them to continue using their current name at their current location.
We have one such agreement in place with a young man in the Midwest who operates a Holy Donut food truck to put himself through college. I could not have more respect for this young man’s entrepreneurial spirit and was happy to allow him to continue earning his college tuition. We are not trying to stop entrepreneurs from earning a living. We simply have a duty to protect our trademark. These agreements allow us to both fulfill our obligation to protect our trademark in the eyes of the FTC and allow small businesses to continue to function.
We were made aware of The Holey Donut in Klamath Falls in December of 2019 shortly after they opened in a Klamath Falls news article stating they would like to have multiple locations. I contacted the owner to inform him that we have a trademark on The Holy Donut which included their spelling of the word “Holey.” I asked that before they get too established that they either change their name or enter into a coexistence agreement with us, agreeing they would not expand beyond their current location utilizing a name that infringes upon our trademark. In return, we would allow them to continue under their current name in their current location. Chris Newton refused to sign a coexistence agreement and stated he would just change the name to the Donut Hole. I thanked him for understanding and wished him well.
In June of 2020 we became aware that Mr. Newton did not honor our verbal agreement to change their name. They also added a food truck bearing the same name. I reached out again to Mr. Newton via their Facebook page and left several voicemails for him without a response over the course of a couple months. We then asked our attorney to send a certified letter requesting that they now change their name hoping this would elicit a response and we could have another conversation. This letter was also ignored.
At this point we had two choices; do nothing and risk losing our trademark or file suit to defend our trademark and our brand which we have spent a great deal of time and money to secure. It really was not much of a decision for us at this point.
As far as being portrayed as a bully by the owners of Holey Donut, that simply is not accurate. We attempted on multiple occasions to work with them. It did not have to come to this. In the end we have a well-documented history of doing what is right in our communities and we have no doubt that our actions in this scenario reflect that.

“We went to The Holy Donut and said okay you win. We’ll stop using the name,” said Newton

Despite the whole ordeal, Michelle Newton said they have selected a new name and they’re moving on. Nothing else about their small family-owned Klamath Falls business is changing.

“No matter what we name it they’re still gonna come. And we appreciate it a lot,” said Newton.

Newton told NBC5 News their new name will be Doughy Donuts and Sandwiches.

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