Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun
December 10, 2010
Denise Whiting has not only built her life around the fabled Balmer Hon, opening Cafe Hon and founding the city's annual Honfest - she's helped to make the three-letter term of endearment a household word around town.
Now she owns it.Whiting has officially trademarked the word "Hon." Over the years, she has trademarked almost every play on the word she could think of. Like the words "Cafe Hon" and "Honfest" and "Hon Bar" and "Hontown," the name of her newest Hampden shop. She owns the image of the word captured in an oval, the way it appears on all those bumper stickers. And that's just for starters.
She owns the rights to using "Hon" on napkins, note cards, stationery, calendars and pens. Without her permission, it can't be used on sweat shirts, hats, underwear, ties, shorts - and certainly not boas.
This fall, when the Maryland Transit Administration wanted to incorporate a few beehived and bespectacled Hons into the campaign for its new fare card, the Charm Card, along with the phrase, "Get yours, Hon," the agency had to go through Whiting. She didn't charge them money, but she did insist on approving each individual ad, poster and television commercial.
Whiting says the trademarking isn't about profit - it's about controlling a brand she's worked hard to build. She applied for her first one in 1992.
"I took ownership of it," she says of the word "Hon." "No one along the line has celebrated it or created as much with it as I have. When I started doing Cafe Hon in 1992, 18 and a half years ago, where was the city then? Where was Hampden? So you could say I took a little word, celebrated it and created change. Big change."