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Architect Suit is All in the Family

Friday, June 6, 2014

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When your name is part and parcel of your corporate identity, what do you do when a relative—your dad, say—gives the same name to your crosstown competitor?

If you're a rising young Oregon architect, you take that family feud to court.

Name Game

An architect in Portland, OR, has filed a lawsuit against the engineering and architecture firm her father founded over the use of their shared last name in their business identities.

Hilary Mackenzie, the principal and owner of Mackenzie Architecture Inc., a small residential architectural and planning firm, says Mackenzie Engineering Inc. also known as Group Mackenzie Incorporated Architecture Planning & Interior Design, is confusing clients and infringes on the trademarked name of Hilary’s firm.

Portland, OR
Amateria1121 / Wikimedia Commons

A Portland, OR, architect says her father's firm has infringed on her firm's name. Both offer services in the Pacific Northwest.

Tom Mackenzie, Hilary’s father, founded Mackenzie Engineering in the 1960s, according to the firm’s history outlined on its website. He has since retired and has no ownership stake in the firm, according to Hilary, reported.

Tom’s firm began going by “Group Mackenzie” in 1996, after the firm added architecture and other design services to its offerings.

Mackenzie Architecture
Screenshot via

Mackenzie Architecture Inc. was founded in 2005. The firm offers residential design services.

Mackenzie Architecture Inc. was founded in 2005.

The lawsuit was filed Monday (June 2) in federal court.

'Group' Dropped

The two firms, Mackenzie Architecture and Group Mackenzie, were able to co-exist until August 2013, the complaint alleges.

That’s when the larger engineering and architecture firm dropped “Group” and began operating as “Mackenzie” alone, according to the complaint.

The first line of text from a Google search for  "Mackenzie Architecture," says "Group Mackenzie is now Mackenzie."

Mackenzie Engineering
Screenshot via

Founded in the 1960s, Group Mackenzie, now Mackenzie, offers architecture; interior design; structural engineering; landscape architecture; land use and transportation planning; and civil engineering services.

In the lawsuit, Hilary alleges that by identifying itself as “Mackenzie” the firm "usurps rights in all Mackenzie formative marks and confuses consumers into mistakenly believing the firms are associated [...]"

The complaint also alleges that the Group firm has identified itself as “Mackenzie Architecture” over the telephone.

Internet search results add to the confusion, the complaint says. A Google search Thursday (June 5) for "Mackenzie Architecture" returned over four million results. The Portland firms were at the top of the list: first, the Group; then, Hilary's.

Relief Sought

Hilary wants the Group to stop using the singular Mackenzie name and pay her damages for the infringement.

An attorney for Group Mackenzie told that the firm plans to “fully defend” the lawsuit, adding that the company has used the Mackenzie name since 1968 and believes it is entitled to continue to do so.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Business matters; Business operations; Color + Design; Design

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