It’s pink versus pink.
Plumbing in Pink vs. Pink Plumbing, a trademark infringement case winding through federal court in South Carolina, involves bad blood between former coworkers and allegations that one intentionally stole the concept of the other.
To tell the tale properly, we must go back 11 years, when Rusty Greer and Judson Ledgett worked at a Charleston plumbing company. Greer said he was fired and moved back to Greenville, where he is from. A year later, Greer said he went back to work for the same company and rented a room in a Charleston condominium owned by Ledgett.
Greer was traveling back to Greenville every weekend to spend time with his fiancée, now wife, Lynn. They yearned to build a business for themselves in Greenville, Greer said. He had a retail day job and was doing plumbing jobs here and there. A plumbing business seemed the best choice.
The Greers were at Chicora Alley in Greenville one night in October 2015 and decided to go ahead and establish a business that would be owned by Lynn Greer and called Plumbing in Pink. She loved the movie “Pretty in Pink,” and the pink just stuck.
They incorporated the business on Oct. 20, 2015, according to records from the South Carolina Secretary of State, and obtained a trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on June 6, 2017.
They bought a shocking magenta pink van and day by day built a business in plumbing, HVAC and renovation.
Rusty Greer said his desire was to go against type — the plumber who doesn’t show up on time but then lumbers in and, let’s just say, might find more things wrong than what he was called for.
He and his employees show up on schedule, clean cut and in uniforms, Greer said.
Plumbing in Pink now has 12 employees and seven vans, the same as most of the big Greenville plumbing companies, Greer said.
Things are so good, Greer is planning to expand to other areas in the state.
Not too long ago, a Charleston friend complimented Greer for his success.
“You’re killing the game. Your vans are all over Charleston,” Greer remembers him saying.
Pretty in Pink was in most Upstate counties but not in Charleston.
Then Greer started to get calls for service with the 843 Charleston area code.
He did some research. A company located in Charleston called Pink Plumbing was using the same color vans and the same Dodge 2500 model. The registered agent was Judson Ledgett. The Secretary of State lists the date of incorporation for Pink Plumbing as Aug. 29, 2017.
“I sat on it, and it festered,” Greer said.
Then he called his lawyer, Thomas Moses, who sent Plumbing in Pink a cease and desist order in April and filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in August.
“It’s easy to see how one could get confused,” Moses said.
Of concern is online reviews and people getting confused between the two companies.
Greer said he is also concerned because he and his wife had an eight-year plan that included expansion to Charleston.
“They stole my business model,” Greer said.
The lawsuit does not specify a dollar amount but seeks any profit made by Pink Plumbing, damages and attorneys fees.
The defendant’s response to the lawsuit filed in August by attorney Jeffrey Wiseman said Pink Plumbing lacked sufficient information to respond to the facts set out by Plumbing in Pink about how the business came to be.
The response confirms some of the details expressed by Greer, including the two men’s previous relationship as coworkers and the rental arrangement between Greer and Ledgett, but denies Greer’s claims of trademark infringement.
Pink Plumbing did not mimic the business model adopted by Plumbing in Pink, the response says, nor does it owe Plumbing in Pink money. Wiseman declined to make any further comment.
If the parties are not able to settle the dispute, a trial will be held during the term of court beginning next Aug. 1, according to a scheduling order by U.S. District Judge David C. Norton.