Helmer Toro, founder of the New York City stalwart H&H Bagels, has already lost his bagel empire. Now he may be set to lose the brand he created, too.
Though the H&H empire crumbled in January when the last of its stores shut down, Toro is still embroiled in a battle over the bagel chain's iconic moniker. According to The Wall Street Journal, the IRS seized the H&H trademark in July as payment for the $1.55 million H&H owed the IRS. Now, Toro claims, others are unrightfully vying for ownership of the widely recognized name.
The first, Randy Narod, owns a string of bagel shops called Long Island Bagel Cafe in Long Island. Just last month, he announced plans to open an H&H bagel outpost in downtown Manhattan, claiming he had already purchased the trademark from Toro. Not so, says H&H's founder. "We were talking about doing a deal together, but he goes behind my back and sets up a company?" Toro told The Wall Street Journal in June. "I've been getting calls congratulating me. That's not me!"
The other party in question is Harry Abrams of American Financial Services Group. According to the Journal, Abrams loaned Toro $12,000 last year, with the name as collateral--but Toro then refused to pay the 20% interest rates. Now, the paper says, Abrams is seeking claim to the name as a form of security interest.
It may take some time for this saga to play out. Last week, Toro filed a petition against the IRS, stating "The IRS should be preventing third parties from making claims against the trademark." Until Toro's appeal is heard, the Journal reports, the trademarks can't be sold, and until they're sold, they still legally belong to Toro.