Kassoff has done this through a combination of negotiating with companies who own the names, yet don't produce the product; or by applying through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) when he finds companies who have failed to maintain the brands they hold onto. How? It seems companies are required to affirm to the USPTO that they do indeed still use the trademarks. If you can prove the company in fact has NOT been using the name for several years, then the trademark is effectively up for grabs.
Kassoff, if you can't tell, has quite a nostalgic streak. Here's Kassoff on the topic of regional department sores and Macy's:
So Kassof discovered that Macy's had been failing at maintaining trademarks for historic stores such as:“I want to bring back the regional flavor, the regional buyers, the regional feel of these communities,” says Kassoff, “because what they did, is they ripped out the heart of each one of these communities. They lost a lot of money — if you add up the sales, they lost a lot of sales when they went to Macy’s because now Macy’s is just some big ass brand from New York.”
Joseph Magnin: San Francisco
Bullock’s: Southern California
May Company: St. Louis
Robinson’s: Southern California, Arizona
Jordan Marsh: Boston
Filene’s: New England
The Broadway: Southwest
The Bon Marche: Seattle, Northwest
Abraham and Straus: New York City
Rich’s: Atlanta/Southern U.S.
Marshall Field’s: Chicago
I. Magnin & Company: West Coast, Arizona
Kaufmann’s: East Coast
Meier & Frank: Portland, Ore.
Stern’s: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey
Strawbridge’s: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware
According to Consumerist, Kassel wants to bring back the stores first as online retailers, and then eventually into regional pop-up stores in the regions where they were once the dominant retailers.
But as you can expect, Macy's didn't let these go without a fight. Shortly after Kassell was granted the trademarks, Macy's filed a federal lawsuit, attempting to keep Kassell from using the trademarks.
In the wake of the Lawsuit, Macy's began a panic rush to produce goods with the named of their assimilated regional chains.
Those Marshall Field's T-Shirts finally make sense.
Go to the Consumerist link to read the full story. It's a great read. I personally hopes Kassell is successful, but it needs to happen soon. As the brands age, the pool of shoppers who will be initially lured by their nostalgia will fade as well.