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 August 22, 2003 




Marketing of Biblical Proportions: Use of "Ararat" challenges court to prove what's in a name


This Ararat is just about as famous in Armenia as the real one -- a name so famous businesses fight over it.

Turkey might own Noah's mountain, but Armenia seems to own the name. In fact several companies own "Ararat". Or at least are fighting over the name.

And the old man of Biblical lore himself enjoys popularity doubtlessly unmatched anywhere, including on the other side of his mountain.

If you believe the Old Testament, you believe the end of the Great Flood was the beginning of Armenia. (Okay, so the Bible doesn't exactly spell it out by saying that "the ark landed in Armenia". But the Genesis account does lend itself to interpreting the land that historically was Armenia as being the spot where the ark "came to rest".)

These many millennium later, attempts to profit from "Ararat" and "Noah" and "Noah's Ark" have created a small flood of competition between businesses looking for a recognizable name.

Go no further than Republic Square to pass "Ararat" restaurant, "Noyan Tapan" (the Armenian translation of "Noah's Ark") office supply store, the "Ararat Wing" of Hotel Armenia, not to mention any number of shops selling "Ararat" brandy or "Noy" (Noah) bottled water.

"Ararat" hotel, with, of course, its "Noah" restaurant opened last year. A few months ago "Noah's Ark" restaurant opened on Parpetsi Street. A news agency in Yerevan is called "Noyan Tapan". There are cigarettes and fruit juices named after the mountain and the man.

If Noah saved the animals two-by-two on Mount Ararat, the business benefit of his namesake apparently offers life for entrepreneurs.

And if he saved humanity, he saved it for every species, including lawyers.

At least two lawsuits are pending in Yerevan these days resulting from the use of the name "Ararat".

About a month ago tourists arrived at the Ararat Hotel expecting to check into rooms they had reserved. Instead they checked into confusion, the result of which will be determined in court.

Upon reaching Yerevan and seeing the glistening hotel with "Ararat" glowing above its entrance, the tourists thought they were home away from home. Turns out, though, that they had made reservations for the Ararat Wing of Hotel Armenia.

This is not the kind of attention the entrepreneurs of either hotel (located only a few blocks from each other) had in mind when they attached "Ararat" to their letterhead or billboards.

Hayrapetyan Rebirth ltd., legal owners of the name "Ararat Hotel" brought actions against Hotel Armenia for illegal usage of the trade mark. The trial is in process.

"We don't think that Hotel Armenia did that purposefully to cause damage to our business," says general manager of the Ararat Hotel, Alain Hani. "However, it is not possible to work in such conditions as it confuses customers.

Hani, who is from Lebanon and had worked for Marriott (managers of Hotel Armenia) and Hilton hotels in Paris before coming to Ararat Hotel, says that the name "Noah" was also purposefully given to the restaurant.

"Everybody knows that Noah landed on the Ararat Mountain and, as names of the hotel's branches must also have some relation with the name of the hotel, the restaurant was named 'Noah'."

Apparently no diners have yet confused the Ararat Hotel restaurant "Noah" with "Noah's Ark" restaurant, but there's time . . .

"The name of an organization cannot be used by another organization making its business in the same field," says deputy head of the Intellectual Property Agency of the Republic of Armenia Andranik Khachikyan.

According to him, the conflict between the hotels can be solved only by means of the court.

"The organization whose rights have been violated - in this case Ararat Hotel - applies to the court as their name is used," Khachikyan says, adding that the IPA does not intend to register the Hotel Armenia addition as the "Ararat" wing, because the other hotel already has claim to the name.

A similar conflict arose a year ago.

Yerevan Brandy Company, owners of Ararat distillery sued Yerevan Ararat Wine Brandy Vodka Plant for trademark violation over use of the name "Ararat".

"The reputation of the Ararat name is not a new thing," says Khachikyan. "Taking into consideration the fact that Armenian brandy has some fame it is natural that many organizations try to use it for the purpose of making an advertisement of their goods easier."

The Bible gave the mountain its name, but it took a football team to make it popular in Soviet Armenia.

In 1973 the Ararat Football Club of Yerevan were champions of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics football league, giving the name wide appeal in the massive USSR. Three years later the brandy company took advantage of the football team's popularity and started exporting Ararat brandy.

After the USSR folded, problems connected with the name arose, when 38 wine and vodka producing branches of the former state monopolist of Armenia Ararat Trest organization started to be privatized and each of them in its turn was trying to take the name "Ararat".

The name is worth a lot, especially to businesses looking to capitalize on Diaspora. But why not make themselves even more visible by putting "Armenia" in the logo? Well:

If you're the first to put "Ararat" or "Noah" etc. on your type of business, mark it up as gift for creative thinking. But if you want to use "Armenia" it will cost you.

According to the law on trade names adopted in 1998, any business organization wishing to use "Arm", "Armenian" or "Armenia" must pay 600,000 drams (about $1,035) a year for the privilege.




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