'I won't give up my name,' says local barber of demand from national chain

The owner of Tommy's Barber Shop on Albro Lake Road says he has no intention of changing the name of his operation despite a cease-and-desist letter sent to him by a competitor.

Tommy's Barber Shop opened 6 years before national chain Tommy Gun's first tried to register name trademark

Thong Luong owns Tommy's Barber Shop in Dartmouth, N.S. He is seen here cutting a customer's hair on Wednesday. (CBC)

The owner of Tommy's Barber Shop in Dartmouth, N.S., says he has no intention of changing the name of his operation despite a cease-and-desist letter sent to him by a national chain with a similar handle.

Thong Luong opened his barbershop on Albro Lake Road in 2003. On June 9, he will mark 15 years in the same spot — under the same name.

He called his business Tommy's Barber Shop because he thought people would have a hard time pronouncing his Vietnamese name, Thong.

"I think most people come here and they call me Tommy and they like my name. And I like my name, and my children like my name," he says.

However, at least one of Luong's competitors doesn't like the name.

On May 9, Luong got a letter in the mail from lawyers representing Tommy Gun's Original Barbershop alleging trademark infringement and saying, "further use of the name Tommy's Barber Shop will cause confusion in the marketplace and depreciate the value."

Luong said he opened the barbershop in 2003 and has no intention of changing the name. (CBC)

It goes on to say, "Use of the name could lead a consumer to mistakenly believe that the services provided and wares sold by you are in some way affiliated with, sponsored by, endorsed by, or otherwise associated with Tommy Gun's."

According to the Canadian Trademark Database, Tommy Gun's Original Barbershop first applied to register the trademark on its name in 2009, six years after Luong opened his shop.

The lawyers for the barbershop chain are demanding Luong remove all signage and advertising by May 22.

Luong registered his name with Nova Scotia's Registry of Joint Stocks in 2003. His competitor is demanding he revise that as well.

Tommy Gun's Original Barbershop has locations across Canada, including one in Dartmouth's Mic Mac Mall. (CBC)

Tommy Gun's website says it has 70 locations "across Canada and the world," including two locations in Nova Scotia — one off Larry Uteck Boulevard in Bedford and another at Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth. The company bills itself as "a tribute to the 1930s Chicago barbershop grooming but with all the modern amenities."

"I don't think I have money to fight with them but I'll try the best I can," Luong says.

Luong moved to Canada from Vietnam in 1994. He completed high school here and eventually found work as a dishwasher and security guard — often, he says, working 90-hour weeks.

Today, his Albro Lake Road barbershop is open seven days a week, except holidays.

"I'm kind to people and probably most people like me," he says. "I just want to show people [I'm] just a small guy in the corner, and to get picked on by the big guy, Tommy Gun or whatever. I won't give up my name."

Lawyers for Tommy Gun's told CBC News that if they continue to let Luong use the name, it only dilutes their brand. 

Luong says he plans to ignore the May 22 deadline.