North Charleston attorney George Sink Jr. can't use his name to market his fledgling law firm because consumers might think they're dealing instead with his father, ubiquitous television pitchman and personal injury lawyer George Sink Sr.
A federal judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order banning the younger Sink from using the "George Sink" name on his firm's website, social media accounts and email address. The ban will stay in place until the case is heard by an arbitrator.
The elder Sink's corporation — George Sink P.A. Personal Injury Lawyers — sued Sink Jr. in April to stop him from using his birth name professionally, saying it violates trademark laws and confuses consumers.
Judge David Norton agreed, stating in his order that while Sink Jr. is not barred from practicing law under his own name, "he must do more to differentiate himself between him and (his father)" in advertising for legal services.
George Sink Sr.'s law firm "has spent nearly two decades and an exorbitant amount of money advertising for its legal services and building up awareness of and goodwill in its trademark," Norton stated. He added "it would not be just" to let the younger Sink benefit from the marketing his father's firm has done.
A lawyer for the elder Sink's firm said it spends millions of dollars each year on television and radio commercials and billboards.
The family feud started in February when Sink Sr. — whose “all-nines” catchphrase is heard on thousands of commercials daily — fired his son from the 23-year-old North Charleston law firm. Four days later, Sink Jr. started his own practice — George Sink II Law Firm — across town under the name he says he’s always used professionally.
Kathryn Cole, a lawyer representing the elder Sink’s firm, said in a court hearing last month that Sink Jr. is taking advantage of the millions of dollars his dad spends each year to market his practice. She said the younger Sink intentionally embedded meta tags in his website so Google searches for "George Sink" would direct people to him instead of his father.
Lawyers for Sink Jr. had asked Norton to dismiss the request for a temporary injunction, saying an arbitrator should decide the matter.
Sink Jr., a graduate of Yale and the Charleston School of Law, was working as a marketing executive in New York when his father urged him in 2013 to join his law firm as a marketing employee. The younger Sink later got a law degree and started handling client matters at his father’s firm last year.
The elder Sink’s law firm has 14 offices in South Carolina and Georgia.