Dial Zero
A look at what's surprising, silly, scary or stupid in telecommunications and data

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Plumbers fought over Tommy Tutone's famous phone number

One-hit wonder Tommy Tutone made the phone number 867-5309 famous in the band's 1982 hit single, which uses the digits over and over in its catchy refrain: "Jenny don't change your number, 8675309." A Rhode Island company and a national company battled over the right to use the number, which doesn't reach "Jenny," but could connect callers to a plumber.

Gem Plumbing & Heating of Lincoln, RI, trademarked the easily-tapped phone number, which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Gem acquired the number in Rhode Island when its original owner, Brown University, gave up 867-5309 after growing weary of the constant prank calls.

Gem's number worked in the 401 area code in Rhode Island and the 617 area code in Massachusetts.

But Florida-based Clockwork Home Services, also a plumbing company, used a toll-free version of 867-5309 in New England. 

In 2007, Gem brought suit against Clockwork Home Services, alleging a violation of its trademark. Clockwork contended that Gem's trademark was invalid. They argued that a company can only trademark a vanity number, like 1-800-FLOWERS. Effective in May 2007, Clockwork was ordered by a court to stop using the number in New England. As of today, it is used by Gem.

Tommy "Tutone" Heath said that he'd prefer that neither company use the number. "It's ridiculous," said Heath. "If I wanted to get into it, I could probably take the number away from both of them." (info from The Associated Press and Wikipedia)

CLICK for more about the song and its impact


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