Thomas J. MacDonald, who goes by the nickname “Tommy Mac,” spent years filming himself while he built fine furniture. He posted the videos online for his weekly webcast, “The Rough Cut Show,” and developed such a following that WGBH-TV eventually picked up the show.
MacDonald went on to host “Rough Cut: Woodworking With Tommy Mac,” for seven seasons on WGBH, and after the last season ended in December 2016, he thought the series was over.
But it wasn’t. Last fall, MacDonald was surprised to find out that WGBH was promoting Season 8 of “Rough Cut,” with a new host named Tom McLaughlin.
MacDonald is now suing WGBH for trademark infringement.
After not renewing his contract, WGBH partnered with Fine Woodworking magazine and changed the name of the show to “Rough Cut with Fine Woodworking.” In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Boston, MacDonald alleges that WGBH pirated his name and image “to produce a counterfeit show.”
WGBH disagrees and says it owns all the trademarks related to the series.
“The claims in this case have no basis in fact,” WGBH said in an e-mailed statement. “Our agreement with Mr. MacDonald makes clear that WGBH owns the series title and all other trademarks relating to the series. WGBH has in no way suggested that Mr. MacDonald is involved with our new production. We hope to be able to resolve this issue.”
The Fine Woodworking magazine website says, “WGBH has spent the last seven years building the Rough Cut brand. The brand is synonymous with the craft of fine woodworking.”
“Tommy MacDonald has decided to branch out and pursue other opportunities on his own,” the website says. “WGBH and Tommy MacDonald had seven great seasons working together on Rough Cut. Rough Cut is the strongest woodworking brand on public television and that brand continues on, with a new host.”
According to the complaint, MacDonald worked as a carpenter until he injured his shoulder in 1997. He then embarked on a new career in cabinetry and woodworking and enrolled in the North Bennet Street School in the North End, and went on to promote himself and his work through online videos.
From 2006 to 2009, MacDonald produced a weekly, Web-based woodworking show called “The Rough Cut Show,” “which ultimately had over 2 million page views and hundreds of thousands of followers,” the complaint states. MacDonald filmed the show at his workshop in Canton, and the episodes appeared on Bob Vila’s website (www.BobVila.com) and on his own website, the complaint states.
MacDonald’s lawsuit alleges that WGBH, The Taunton Press, Inc. (the company that publishes Fine Woodworking magazine), and Laurie Donnelly, the executive producer of the series, “are infringing on the trademarks, name, picture, and reputation” of MacDonald.
In the complaint, attorney John J. E. Markham II argues that under the terms of MacDonald’s contract, WGBH was allowed to register a trademark for the title of the show (‘Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac’) but should not have registered standalone trademarks for “Rough Cut” or his nickname, “Tommy Mac.”
Markham filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Friday alleging that the defendants are “attempting to pirate” MacDonald’s “good name, his reputation, and his trademarks.”
The motion seeks to stop WGBH from promoting the new show as “Season 8” and from using photos of MacDonald and the phrases “Rough Cut” and “Tommy Mac.”
A memo filed in support of the motion states that “MacDonald has been known since the early 2000s as ‘Tommy Mac’ of ‘Rough Cut,’ the latter name being his longtime woodworking show. For many years, strangers have approached him on the street and called out ‘Hey, you’re Rough Cut!’ or ‘Hey, Tommy Mac!’ ”
Markham said MacDonald is “very saddened” at the situation.
“Tommy MacDonald put his heart and soul into that show for seven years,” Markham said in a telephone interview. “He is very saddened at what they’re doing, and he looks forward to having a quick court resolution.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.