By Jim Davis
For The Bellingham Business Journal
BELLINGHAM — Q Laundry in the Sunnyland neighborhood is changing its name and branding after getting into a trademark dispute with a national laundry manufacturer.
The laundromat at 810 Alabama St. will be known as Brio Laundry.
Owner Colleen Unema said she started the business in 2013 and ran it as Q Laundry. The Q was a huge part of the look and playfulness of the business, she said.
When she applied for a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Alliance Laundry Systems Corporation objected last year. The company, based in Ripon, Wisconsin, uses a Q for their brand of Speed Queen washers.
“We thought it would just go away since it was so ridiculous,” Unema said.
But it didn’t. She spoke with a lawyer in Bellingham and another in Seattle who deals with trademark cases. She said they told her that she had a good case. But she decided against pursuing the issue in court.
“I don’t have the kind of money to withstand all of their appeals and three years of discovery and all the rest,” Unema said. “It’s so unequal. You have a multi-billion dollar company bullying a tiny business. They know I can’t play.”
A spokesman for Alliance Laundry Systems confirmed that Q Laundry objected to the Unema’s trademark request.
“It’s still ongoing so I don’t have any further comments at this time,” said Daniel Bowe, the company’s director of marketing in an email. “Once I have all the information I will be able to add more comments.”
In the meantime, Unema said she’s chosen to move forward with the name Brio Laundry for her laundromat that uses only Energy Star laundry machines and offers organic and environmentally friendly detergents.
She said the word “brio” comes from the Italian, and is a noun meaning “enthusiastic vigor; great energy and confidence.” She said it’s simple clean and energetic and fits with her company’s vision.
Before choosing the name, she said she did some research to make sure it wasn’t taken. But she said she did the same research with Q Laundry.
She’s covered the Q of her business with an emoji with a tear and is working on a new design for her new brand.
“Every single business could have someone coming out of left field just like me,” Unema said.