bagel store sticks it to MTA
has turned the tables — make that the alphabet — on the Metropolitan
Samhan is the heroic bagel-maker whose F-Line Bagels on Smith Street was
forced to remove the “F” train logo from its front sign after
the MTA sued for trademark infringement last year.
Seems the MTA felt straphangers would be confused by all the train insignias
and think the transit agency had gotten into the bagel business.
Yes, Samhan’s store was filled with the subway system’s distinctive
iconography. And yes, it sits under the Smith/Ninth Street station.
But any similarities between F-Line Bagels and the F line end there.
For one thing, Samhan’s store is sparkling clean. For another, his
employees are friendly. And never once has anyone tried to search my bag
when I entered F-Line Bagels.
Although the law is an ass, Samhan grudgingly complied, breaking apart
his expensive front sign even before it had been fully paid off.
He also covered all examples of the MTA’s colorful alphabet on other
signs throughout his store and even taped napkins over the offensive part
of his “F-Line Bagels” t-shirt.
But now, Samhan is fighting back. Loyal customers have recently noticed
that the transit logos have returned — albeit with the letters perfectly
And legal experts think Samhan may actually get the last laugh over his
“The standard in a trademark case is very simple,” said Brooklyn
Law School professor Marshall Leaffer. “The aggrieved party needs
to prove that the public would be confused — in this case, that customers
would think the MTA was involved with the bagel store.”
But IF the letters are reversed, such confusion, unlikely to begin with,
is virtually impossible.
“The likelihood of confusion has become less potent,” said Leaffer,
a visiting professor from Indiana. “Anyone seeing a backwards ‘F
train’ logo would think it was a parody. A reasonable person would
not believe the MTA was sponsoring a bagel shop with such a logo.”
As an aside, Leaffer said he’d never been to F-Line Bagels —
“You have so many bagels in this town, it’s hard to keep up!
— but thought the bagels at Nosh on Atlantic Avenue were excellent
(the jury is still out, counselor).
Leaffer’s bagel credentials are suspect, but his legal opinion was
validated by other experts. The MTA, however, did not return my calls.
Samhan’s new sign — this time with the letter F reversed —
is expected to be installed next week, a victory for anyone who loves
bagels, has a sense of humor, and believes that the MTA should run the
subway system rather than prosecute bagel store owners..
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010