H.I.G. Battles H&G In Name Dispute

H&G Capital Partners has gotten off to a rocky start, at least from a trademark-infringement point of view.

The Salt Lake City-based shop founded late last year by billionaire industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr. and former Bain Capital pro Bob Gay drew a lawsuit last month from H.I.G. Capital, the mid-market firm based in Miami. Huntsman Gay Capital Partners calls itself H&G Capital Partners—and that name is too close for H.I.G. Capital, a 15-year-old shop with $4 billion in assets under management.

In its lawsuit, filed in federal court in Florida, H.I.G. Capital contends that target companies and service providers run the risk of confusing the two LBO shops, especially because both specialize in mid-market acquisitions. The Miami shop claims that it has “invested millions of dollars in promotion and advertising” of the H.I.G. Capital name since forming the firm in 1993.

The suit has precedent: H.I.G. Capital forced European firm HgCapital to enter into a “co-existence agreement” that restricts Hg Capital from using its “confusingly similar name in the U.S. private equity markets,” according to H.I.G. Capital’s lawsuit.

The suit has a precedent in another way, too. This isn’t the first time a new firm has come perilously close to copying the name of an existing shop, only to feel the legal consequences. Last year, for instance, venture shop Union Square Ventures sued Union Square Partners after the LBO firm changed its name from Capital Z Financial Services; the two parties eventually settled out of court, and both retain the Union Square parts of their names.

In March, H.I.G. Capital sent a letter to H&G Capital demanding that the firm change its name, according to the suit. After not receiving what it considered a satisfactory response, the Miami firm filed its suit, hoping to prevent H&G Capital from using that name in sponsorship material at the gigantic ACG Intergrowth conference in Orlando earlier this month. A judge denied that injunction.

Neither H.I.G. Capital nor H&G Capital responded to requests for comment.

Aside from Huntsman and Gay, H&G Capital counts a number of heavyweights among its managing directors. Those include former Bain Capital pro Ron Mika and former football pro Steve Young. Young and Mika most recently worked for Sorensen Capital; Young has moved full-time to H&G Capital, while Mika will split his time between H&G Capital and Sorensen Capital.