Planet Fitness sues over trademark
Planet Fitness is seeking a judgment about the use of its “judgment free” language. PFIP LLC, the Dover company that franchises the nationwide workout chain, is suing a Long Island fitness club for allegedly stealing its trademark “Judgment Free Zone” mission statement. The suit, filed March 22, charges that Aspen Total Fitness knew that Planet Fitness was planning to open a fitness club in Centerreach, N.Y., about a half-mile from the club, and willfully used Planet Fitness wording to confuse customers about the competition. The club is scheduled to open in a few months, Planet Fitness CEO Michael Grondahl told NHBR Daily. Planet Fitness has had to defend its name before, said attorney Teresa C. Tucker, the attorney representing the firm. But in those cases it was over the mistaken use of the fashionable “Planet” prefix. This is the first case where a competitor used the actual “Judgment Free” text, she said. Aspen Total Fitness wrote in its mission statement, “We are here to provide a unique environment in which anyone, and we mean anyone, can be comfortable. A diverse, judgment free club where a lasting active lifestyle can be built.” The language - except for substituting the words “judgment free club” for “judgment free zone” -- are identical to the words that are on the walls of Planet Fitness. “That shows how are creative they are,” Grondahl said. In addition, the advertisement goes on to say, “We are not a brand name or a mold maker but a tool that can be used by anyone,” which is identical to the Planet Fitness wording. Planet Fitness learned about Aspen’s advertisement on March 17, filing a suit five days later. Aspen has two clubs. Planet Fitness recently opened its 100th franchise. It has 450,000 members, sales in excess of $100 million and is one of the fastest-growing fitness chains in the United States. When asked if Planet Fitness could be perceived as a bully, Grondahl said, “I hope so. We probably burn more legal fees in a month than this guy does in total sales in a year. But if you don’t defend your trademark vigorously you end up losing it.” Calls to the owners of Aspen Total Fitness were not returned by deadline.