Gainesville veteran standing ground versus U-Haul over trademark dispute

Gregory Sledge, owner of Veterans Moving Help, opens one of his trucks. WGFL

A Gainesville veteran who battled homelessness is now fighting to keep a business he built from the ground up.

Gregory Sledge started using Craigslist to offer help loading and unloading trucks. Pretty soon it developed into a company, Veterans Moving Help, which employs vets from around the country.

“One thing led to another, and we started getting really popular around the Gainesville area," Sledge said. "Next thing you know, we were ready to get some trucks and start rolling. ”

Business was booming until he received a cease and desist letter from a moving company you probably heard of: U-Haul. The company contends the use of the words "moving help" violates its trademark.

"Your use of 'moving help' to promote your directly competitive services is likely to cause confusion with U-Haul's moving help services," the letter said.

It demanded Sledge stop using his website and transfer the domain to U-Haul.

“For me to get that letter telling me that basically I have to start all over from square one because the use of two common words—really the only way to describe my business is to use those words ‘moving help,” he said.

Sledge said he's not going to back down.

“I plan to force U-Haul's hand, intend on keeping my name, my name is Veterans Moving Help," Sledge said. "There is a definite difference between Veterans and U-Haul, there is no confusion between the two.”

So what does the law say?

"Generally trademark law is not meant to protect marks that are generic or marks that are descriptive," said University of Florida Professor Elizabeth Rowe, an expert on trade secret and trademark law.

Rowe said although 'moving help' is descriptive, there are loopholes, which is why small business owners should always look up current trademarks before officially naming their business.

“Chances are you could be butting up against someone’s trademark where you’d receive a cease and desist letter,” Rowe said.

Sledge is waiting to see if U-Haul will bring legal action.

"This is out of hand and hopefully I can bring some attention to a wrong thing that’s going on,” he said.

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