War has broken out between the nearly 200-year-old, London-based weekly magazine The Spectator, and a younger American conservative magazine entitled The American Spectator, which has been publishing under that name for four decades.
Until recently, the two publications had quite cordial relations and seemingly separate spheres of influence on their respective continents.
That changed in recent years. In October 2019 the British publisher, Press Holdings Media Group, introduced an American print version: The Spectator US Edition. That followed the introduction of a website targeting an American audience a year earlier.
The Yanks, who have been publishing under The American Spectator name since 1977, are now furious.
“Despite actual knowledge of The American Spectator’s long history in the United States and familiarity with the content of its magazine, other publications and website, Media Group adopted the marks ‘The Spectator US Edition’ for its printed publication … and ‘Spectator USA’ for its website targeting the US market,” claimed the American Spectator Foundation, the non-profit that owns the American magazine, as part of a trademark infringement suit it filed in federal district court in Alexandria VA.
The lawsuit complains that “‘The Spectator US Edition’ and ‘Spectator USA’ marks, are similar in sound, meaning, and appearance and create the same commercial impression as the ‘The American Spectator.’”
The American Spectator tried on different names earlier in its life, starting out as the Alternative before switching to The Alternative: An American Spectator in the late 1960s. It moved to its current title in 1977.
But the British scoffed at its relatively new track record. “The Spectator is the oldest magazine in the world, founded in 1828 and read in America since at least the middle of the 19th century when, alone among influential British publications, it supported the North and the anti-slavery movement in the American Civil War. It has been sold in the US under that name continuously since that time.”
The Brits claim that other US publications, from the Columbia Spectator newspaper to Wine Spectator magazine, all use the term “spectator,” making it is hard to claim a proprietary right to the name.
“The American Spectator seems to believe it has dominion over the word “spectator” in the United States,” said Andrew Neill, chairman of The Spectator. “Given our distinguished history in Britain and America, our worldwide fame as The Spectator Magazine–the oldest in the world–and the prevalence of other magazines with ‘spectator’ in their titles, we find that claim not only wrong but absurd.”
But the Yanks claim that the arrival of The Spectator US edition as a separate print magazine and its accompanying website targeted at a US audience interested in politics and world affairs has created “confusion” in the marketplace and caused “irreparable harm” to its brand. It seeks a jury trial and damages to be determined by the a jury.
And the Brits concede that relations between the two spectators were cordial until it’s recent US launch.
“Until this lawsuit, The Spectator has friendly relationship with the American Spectator and its founding editor Robert Emmett Tyrrell Jr. who clearly aped The Spectator’s layout, masthead and editorial style when he changed the name from the Alternative to Alternative The American Spectator in 1967 and about a decade later to just the American Spectator.”