Several audio companies make use of “Gotham” in their names. They are unrelated to the Gotham Audio that Stephen Temmer founded in 1958 and which carried on business in New York City, Los Angeles and Zurich through the 1980’s.
Gotham Sound and Communications in NYC is one such business and, in fact, they have long been one of Gotham Audio LLC’s customers. JL Audio in Miramar Florida brands their high quality powered subwoofers as “Gotham.” Neither of these fine companies have ever tried to connect their businesses and products with the legacy and reputation of Stephen Temmer’s Gotham Audio Corporation.
This is not the case with a “ Gotham Audio” website currently appearing on the Internet which offers products aimed at the high-end consumer audio market. This site is owned by Charles Whitener who is based in Georgia and Tennessee. We first encountered Whitener in the 1990’s ( he was actually the landlord for a close business colleague of ours and we had a mutual acquaintance who built vacuum tube amplifiers). At that time Whitener was busy acquiring the Western Electric and Westrex brand names. He spent the next two decades announcing grandiose plans to revive Western Electric’s US based tube manufacturing operations with a special focus on the legendary 300B tubes which sell to audiophiles at vastly inflated prices.
Around this time, Whitener acquired the vacant URL address “www. gothamaudio.com” and in late 2005 he posted a “Coming Soon” message on the website which was followed up by a finished website in early 2006 displaying logos for Gotham Audio, Mullard, Tung-Sol and Telefunken and promising a variety of future products for sale.
This led to several years of litigation between Whitener and several companies
who rightly claimed ownership of the above trademarks. The US Patent and Trademark Trial Board ruled against Whitener in 2008 decisions involving Gotham Audio and JL Audio. Whitener’s “Gotham Audio” website went blank in 2007, but he retained its ownership
In August 2015, after some 8 years in which the site lay dormant, Charles Whitener re-launched a “ Gotham Audio” website. Carefully avoiding labeling his product offerings as “ Gotham Audio” products, he nonetheless appropriates the Gotham Audio name for his distribution company, with a seemingly deliberate intent to again link his current product offerings to the Gotham Audio name and legacy.
Whitener has never proven that his various companies ever had any historical link to Stephen Temmer’s or Temmer’s successors’ business activities under the Gotham Audio name.
DETAILS CONCERNING THE HISTORY OF GOTHAM AUDIO AND GOTHAM AUDIO LLC’S CONTINUING EFFORTS TO PROTECT AND ENHANCE THE LEGACY OF STEPHEN TEMMER’S GOTHAM AUDIO CORP :
Gotham Audio Corporation was founded by Stephen Temmer in 1958 in New York City. Temmer registered a distinctive red and black logo trademark for this company in 1965. He also registered his Gotham trademark in Switzerland in 1984, shortly before his retirement. Not long thereafter, he transferred the sales rights for Gotham Audio Cable, along with rights to continue to use the Gotham name and Mark, to Franz Ammann. Ammann continued to use the Gotham name and mark over the next thirty years, establishing a successful organization near Zurich which distributes professional audio equipment in Switzerland, while marketing Gotham Audio Cable worldwide.
The New York Gotham’s core business, the distribution of Neumann microphones, came to an abrupt end in 1991 when the Neumann family turned over ownership of their business to Sennheiser. The disheartened principals of the Gotham Audio Corporation embarked upon new ventures, and with the untimely death of Stephen Temmer in 1992, the remarkable company that he founded slowly faded from the rapidly changing audio scene. Temmer’s succesors at Gotham Audio in New York had failed to renew his US trademark and after the business closed its doors, they did little to preserve the company’s legacy.
This appeared to leave the Gotham Audio name and trademark open to predatory acquisition by individuals seeking valuable historical brand names (“orphans”) with which to brand their current products. In the 1990’s era of corporate failures, buyouts and acquisitions, unscrupulous individuals and their attorneys could often do this with little or no opposition from markholders who had dissolved, died or otherwise disappeared. Charles Whitener successfully obtained the Western Electric name and mark and he later turned his attention to acquiring a half-dozen other names connected with vacuum tubes and vintage audio products
In 2004, Franz Ammann and Lewis Frisch decided to name their new US company Gotham Audio, LLC, so as to preserve the use of the legendary Gotham Audio name and Mark by those with both a historical connection to the Gotham Audio Corporation and a true appreciation for that company’s immense contributions to our industry. Gotham Audio, LLC was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on November 24, 2004. On December 20, 2004 the LLC filed an application for the distinctive “GA and Design” Mark with the US Patent and Trademark Office. The application was opposed by Charles Whitener and his Westrex company.
There was no evidence to show that Whitener had actively used the GA and Design Mark in connection with specific goods advertised and offered for sale, while the Swiss company Gotham AG had registered the mark in Switzerland in 1984 and had used it extensively, continuously and internationally since then.
With this in mind, Gotham Audio, LLC retained Sanford Piltch, a Patent and Trademark Attorney based in Allentown, PA to challenge Whitener’s assertion that he had legitimately acquired ownership of Temmer’s trademak.
In litigation before the US Patent and trademark Trial Board, Piltch asserted that Whitener did not possess any rights to the GOTHAM or “GA and Design” Marks either directly or through a predecessor entity. Further that Gotham Audio, LLC possessed rights to these Marks through the affiliation with Gotham AG who had acquired the rights to use the Marks from Stephen Temmer in 1984 and had used them continuously in the USA from that time until the founding of Gotham Audio, LLC.
We contended that Whitener had adopted the Marks to confuse and mislead the public into assuming that his companies were somehow affiliated with Stephen Temmer and the Gotham Audio Corporation which originated the Marks. Also that there was no evidence that Gotham Audio, LLC’s use of the “GA and Design” Mark would in any way confuse or mislead the public as regards to the source of or possible associations with the goods allegedly manufactured or sold by Whitener’s companies.
The case dragged on throughout 2006 and well into 2007. In early 2007, Whitener’s www.gothamaudio.com website went blank. On December 13, 2007, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board granted all of Gotham Audio, LLC‘s motions and dismissed the Opposition with prejudice.
On January 22, 2008 the US Patent and Trademark Office issued Certificate of Registration # 3,371,152 to Gotham Audio, LLC for the “GA and Design” Trademark.
Most significantly, the date of first use and first use in commerce was set as March 14, 1984, prior to Stephen Temmer’s retirement and prior to the expiration of his original US trademark registration in November 1985 . So the lineage of the Gotham Audio, LLC “GA and Design” Mark is now clearly linked to the original 1965 US Mark and to Temmer’s 1984 trademark application in Switzerland.
Sadly, our opposition has chosen to renew this controversy in 2015, continuing a 20 year history of his using unrelated classic brand names to mislead the public into believing that his current product offerings, worthy or unworthy as they might be, are historically connected to the business enterprises that pioneered the development and marketing of so many classic audio products.
Gotham founder Stephen Temmer was a controversial figure with a personality that encompassed extremes of both brilliance and arrogance. He was always seeking the highest standards of performance in audio equipment and he believed discerning customers would appreciate true excellence in product engineering. His marketing was always grounded in engineering.
One might wonder how Temmer would have reacted to to vacuum tube power amplifiers for high end audiophiles which carry a $ 100,000 price tag. As Charles Whitener noted in a 2013 interview “if you have enough money” you are welcome to purchase the Model 97A amplifier which is now being distributed by his “Gotham Audio.”