Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Fight Over 867-5309

Tommy Tutone rose to number four on the charts with “Jenny/867-5309.” It’s a good song. Of course, for people with 867-5309 as their phone number, it’s been an irritant. Many reported daily prank calls for years.

In Rhode Island, Brown University had the number. Brown finally gave it up and Gem Plumbing grabbed it in 2002 for Rhode Island’s 401 area code and Southern Massachusetts’ 617 area code. Check out Gem’s ads featuring the number…

Brothers Video

Training Camp Video

The number’s worked well for Gem. Anthony Gemma, one of four brothers who owns Gem, claims over 20% of the consumers in their market area know their phone number by heart. In 2004, they filed a trademark for the number, which was granted in 2005.

It’s a good story about the power of music in marketing, branding numbers, etc. But then, trouble brewed.

According to Gem’s blog, a national plumbing company learned about Gem’s use of the number in its marketing, during acquisition talks.

Builder Online reports that the competitor began using a toll free version of the number in 2006. The competitor also licensed the Tommy Tutone song from Warner Chapel Music.

Gem sued. And won. A May 23 Associate Press story reported, “Gem won round one in its legal fight over the number when a federal judge in Boston recently barred Clockwork from using the number in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, effective this week.”

The story's making national news. Anthony Gemma’s was even interviewed on NPR. Listen to the interview.

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