Donut-Shop Duel Over Naming Rights Roils New Bedford

A Facebook post from Ma's Donuts in New Bedford, identified by the company as the "REAL MA."Foto: Courtesy Ma's Donuts, New Bedford

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) —Two donut shops along the South Coast are battling after a trademark dispute — not over a secret recipe, but rather, over a name.

"Ma's Donuts" of New Bedford had been around for 61 years when its owners, the Lemieux family, decided to close down in 2016. Upon taking the steps to reopen in February, the family said it discovered that the trademark for their name had already been taken by a Middletown, Rhode Island business.

A search of the U.S. Trademark database confirmed that "Ma's Donuts and more" had been bought in 2017 by Leite Donuts, Inc.

The Lemieuxs said the R.I. business, officially titled "Ma's Donuts and More," had taken "the liberty of trying to capitalize on the Ma’s donuts name" by trademarking the name after they shut down.

"We are incredibly saddened by this unfortunate event," a post on Facebook read, with the shop saying it would have to change its name. Another post featured a photo of someone the business called "the REAL Ma."

Valdemar Leite, owner of the Middletown Ma's, said he thought that the New Bedford shop was gone for good when they closed down in 2016, and was only seizing on a good business opportunity. "It was a big deal for them to close down. I never thought they would ever come back," Leite said Sunday. He said the family had "made it pretty clear that they didn't want anything to do with it anymore."

Leite said he did warn the New Bedford Ma's in February that he held the trademark to the name because customers were getting confused.

He has owned the Middletown shop since 1993, and said he has no inclination to change his shop's name.

Social media reaction to the debacle has been mostly negative against the Middletown shop, with customers saying things like "I hope you go out of business" and calls to boycott the store.

For now, "Name or no name," Ma's in New Bedford vowed, "no one and we mean no one, will ever beat the taste and feel of our classic donuts."

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