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without using the actual name, could you give an example of what the business name looked like and now looks like? Also, please confirm that there is no DBA license involved.
does the "tavern" contain your last name, or is there anything especially unique or unusual about your name?
First of all, I understand how frustrating this is, but as an attorney who handles family law as a large component of my practice I laughed outloud when I saw "Joe & NOT Bernie's Tavern." That said, there's probably a decent argument for suit. In most states, you can be sued for using someone else's name, likeness, or other personal attributes without permission for an exploitative purpose. Usually, people run into trouble in this area when they use someone's name or photograph in a commercial setting, such as in advertising or other promotional activities. But, some states also prohibit use of another person's identity for the user's own personal benefit, whether or not the purpose is strictly commercial. There are two distinct legal claims that potentially apply to these kinds of unauthorized uses: (1) invasion of privacy through misappropriation of name or likeness ("misappropriation"); and (2) violation of the right of publicity. (The "right of publicity" is the right of a person to control and make money from the commercial use of his or her identity.)
It's easier when the name used is "NOT Joe W. Blow's Bar and Grill", but if it is just "NOT Joe's Bar and Grill" that happens to be across the street from Joe, the case is stronger. It's not a slam dunk, but (as I said) I think there's a case there. My personal suggestion would be to consider getting an attorney to write a cease and desist letter and see if that fixes it. If that doesn't work and your broccoli is still steamed, consider getting a civil attorney. Best of luck.
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