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'Village Voice,' Yelp Battle Over The Phrase 'Best Of' In Court

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If you think "best" and "of" are generic words, free to be used by anyone who wants to award a superlative, you're apparently angling for a fight with Phoenix-based Village Voice Media, publishers of New York's Village Voice newspaper among other papers.

This week, the media company announced that it was suing Yelp for using the phrase "best of" on its sites in 10 major cities. The Village Voice claims to hold the trademark for the "best of" format in those cities, and releases special editions of its paper every year announcing its picks for the best businesses in various categories in those cities. The Village Voice also released a "best of"-themed app for iOS in 2011.

The two publications -- can you call Yelp a publication? -- do have some similarities, inasmuch as they both match categories with individual restaurants and categories. But the Village Voice's categories are generally much more specific than those on yelp. In New York City, for example, Yelp lists things like "Best of Food" (Levain Bakery), "Best Of Restaurants" (Per Se), "Best of New American" (Eleven Madison Park) and "Best Italian" (Babbo) on its homepage. But the Village Voice advertises winners in categories like "Best Bone Marrow Use," "Best Brown-Bagging-A-Beer Spot" and "Best Market Stand."

The Village Voice is seeking an injunction against Yelp that would stop the website from using the "best of" format going forward, plus damages for its use of the mark over the past few years.

This isn't the first time the Village Voice has tried to protect its "best of" domain -- it sued Time Out New York for the same reason just a year ago.

For what it's worth, Yelpers don't have such great things to say about the Village Voice either. True, Andrew W. gave the paper a five-star review back in September 2007, writing, "Good articles. Good stories. Lets you know what's going on. By far are the sex ads in the back. You want a rub n' tug? Look no further than the VV."

But several others were much less flattering. In January, Yelper Fallopia T wrote, in a one-star review, "No, no, no. The Voice is a mere shadow of its former self. They were the paper that, at its founding, refused to "sell out;" flash forward to the present day, and it's a slick, commercial, and oddly inept weekly rag. "

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