Former host of WGBH woodworking show files trademark infringement suit

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Tommy MacDonald, right, visits with woodworker Paul Schürch on an episode of "Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac."

The former host of a woodworking show on Boston’s WGBH claims in a lawsuit filed Sunday that the station is infringing on his trademark and profiting from his image after it started a new season of the show with a similar name but different host.

[Update: WGBH filed a countersuit in June 2018.]

Thomas MacDonald hosted the show Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac for seven seasons from 2010 to 2016, according to the lawsuit. After seven seasons, WGBH did not renew MacDonald’s contract for an eighth, and MacDonald believed the show would end, the lawsuit said. However, it returned for Season Eight this month with new host Tom McLaughlin under the name Rough Cut with Fine Woodworking.

The lawsuit calls the new show a “confusingly-similar (sic) intentional imitation” of Rough Cut: Woodworking with Tommy Mac and says advertisements for the new show have used MacDonald’s name, image and trademark without permission.

“Defendants are attempting to and have deceived the public into believing that Plaintiff MacDonald is the originator of the Defendants’ new show, and is participating in it, endorsing it, and sponsoring it,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also asserts that WGBH and Laurie Donnelly, the station’s EP of lifestyle programming, registered a trademark “in violation of Plaintiff’s rights and intentionally misled Plaintiffs about the registration.” The lawsuit claims MacDonald had rights to the name through a common-law trademark.

The lawsuit seeks to have the court cancel WGBH’s registered trademark for “Rough Cut” and to have the station discontinue use of the words “Rough Cut,” “Tommy Mac” or “Season 8” to promote any woodworking show. It also asks the court to prevent the use of MacDonald’s image.

The lawsuit also seeks to require WGBH to include written and oral statements in eight episodes of the new Rough Cut that say in part that MacDonald is not associated with or sponsoring the show.

MacDonald’s lawsuit names as defendants Donnelly, the WGBH Educational Foundation and The Taunton Press, a partner with WGBH on the new show. It seeks unspecified damages and attorneys’ fees.

Update: Current did not contact WGBH for comment prior to this article’s publication. A WGBH spokesperson sent Current this comment Thursday:

“The claims in this case have no basis in fact. WGBH has in no way suggested that Mr. MacDonald is involved with our new production. Our agreement makes clear that WGBH owns the series title and all other trademarks relating to the series. We hope to be able to resolve this issue.”

20 thoughts on “Former host of WGBH woodworking show files trademark infringement suit

  1. Sounds to me that Tommy Mac is trying to extort Public Television for money after they decided not to bring him back for season 8. I suppose filing bogus lawsuits is an easier way to earn money than actually working.

    • Rough Cut is Tommy’s show and the station should have had a new name since they had a new host. I hope Tommy has a new show on another network since he was such an inspiration to me in my own at home business. The network should have known better.

    • it would seem to me that Tommy does have a case, tho I haven’t seen the legal terms of their agreement. Tommy started the Roughcut show well before WGBH got involved. He was known before this association. I think he ought to win, and I hope he does!

    • Hey Butch, obviously you don’t know the show: The rest of us do. “Tommy Mac” IS a registered trademark name with the USPTO (US Government Copyright Office) and it is short for Tommy McDonald. The NEW host is Tommy McLaughlin who calls himself “Tommy Mac” – and he was a guest on the show in season-7. McLaughlin even tired to dominate the show and to guide cameras away from Tommy McDonald who was the real host and as McLaughlin moved in, McDonald was trying to sway the cameras back to the correct host. It is McLaughlin who approached the network to suggest that HE take over in season-8 and without McDonald thereby stealing the show away completely. So before you yell around here about McDonald, I think you should know the real history of this thing. It IS McDonald’s trademark and HIS show also. The producer and the station is being sued rightfully and McDonald should win and come back into his own show as Rough Cut because the show was named by him in the first place. The station is stealing the show away, which is what TV stations do when they think they can bully a host or a talent. I have seen this many times happen. They tried to steal music albums this way too by re-recording the music from a concert then selling it as their own from a TV station and playing the music on their own radio station. It’s called trademark and copyright infringement, and it’s a theft on Tommy McDonald. Before you criticize McDonald, you need to know what you’re talking about, Butch! Butch YOU need to get more knowledge about this before you criticize it.

  2. This guy is seriously suing PBS after they decided to move in a different direction with the show? Try getting a different job Tommy Mac instead of filing frivolous lawsuits. This is why we need lawsuit reform in this country.

    Thanks for all you do PBS keep it up. I hope you crush this clown.

      • I agree with Tommy Mac. I just tuned into the show today and was surprised to see that Tommy Mac was not the host. If PBS wanted a new show they should have named it something else. I hope that another station will pick up his show.

      • Yes, yes it was… I tuned into the new show and thought… what is going on… he calls himself Tommy Mac…. but … he doesn’t look like him. Not the same energy, not the same new shop built for the show, not the same guy who started Rough Cut on the Web years before PBS. sheesh… fair is fair… that 10 year thing companies do… 10 years plus, people start to cost too much… it’s a damn shame!

  3. Good lesson for TV and multimedia companies. Don’t let the host trademark the name of your show. You may run into legal troubles if you want to continue the show with a different host. Good lesson for hosts, too. If it’s your show, make sure you trademark the name of your show. This way, you’ll be able to stop the producer of your show from moving on with a different host, without you.

    Andrei Mincov

    Founder and CEO of Trademark Factory® /, the only firm in the world that offers trademarking services with a predictable, guaranteed result, for a predictable, guaranteed budget. We can help you register your trademarks with a free comprehensive trademark search, for a single all-inclusive flat fee, with a 100% money-back guarantee.

  4. I enjoyed watching the show with Tommy Mac. He brought a lot of humor to the show. It’s a shame PBS did not renew his contract….was there a reason given? Simply change the name of the show with the new host and avoid going to court. Matter solved. We woodworkers will miss Tommy Mac!

  5. I totally agree on toms side,they should have started a different show without referring to the former show at all.i will miss tommys show and hope to see him surface with another show of his own.

  6. Tommy Max personality and history made the show. He created it and PBS should be sensitive enough to respect his originality and use a different name and set up. The new host is a great guy. Give him a new name to the show

  7. I liked Tommy Mac and looked forward to his show. He had personality. That was his show. I hope they put him back on ‘his show next season. I won’t be watching the new guy.

  8. I was so excited when I saw on my DVR new “Season 8” episodes of “Rough Cut with Tommy Mac”. I hit the play button on episode one (1), and when it began playing with that new host I thought something was up. I looked back at my DVR information, and sure enough, the “Rough Cut” name, Tommy’s picture and everything appeared just as in previous recordings. I began to dig deeper and found that PBS had infringed on his “creative intelligence”, and was attempting to make regular viewers believe it was the same show. Even the many of the opening screen shots were the same as previous seasons. I am not necessarily opposed the the new host, but about 60 seconds was all I watched or will watch. If PBS should change the name of the program, then I would probably watch the new program episodes. I hope the courts have enough integrity to award in Tommy Mac’s favor, as clearly this is theft of intellectual property.

  9. PBS clearly INFRINGED on Tommy Mac and his Original show name. Did PBS really think they could sneak by with a different host with a name so close to Tommy Mac by bringing in Tom McLaughlin ???? Even a third grader can see the INFRINGEMENT in this case.
    I have nothing against either host, but PBS has clearly stepped on it BIG TIME ! ! !
    New show, New host … you had better come up with a COMPLETELY NEW NAME instead of stealing part of the old name. CLEARLY a name Infringement in this regard !!!
    PBS .. SHAME ON YOU !!!

  10. I love watching this show when season 8 premiered I was happy to see what he was going to do this season and to find out it’s a different Tom not happy this is what these big corporate giant’s do they seen how many people where watching him on YouTube and bring him over to public tv for a few years and get rid of him and profit off of him and saying their not. All I have to say is Tommy Mac sue the hell out of them they deserve it

  11. I enjoyed the series and host and was confused when I watched season 8. Took me a bit to figure out what I was watching. The TV set or decor are similar but definitely modified and no offense to the replacement host…not really engaging or interesting. Personally, WGBH and PBS have lost a viewer of the series and its unfortunate. I can’t see that this series will generate a season 9. Oh well…good luck to Tommy and his law suit.

  12. I was looking foward to a new season of Rough Cut with Tommy Mac in his new shop. I was curious to see if that second floor was going to work for him. A Florida thunderstorm ran me inside today, (normal for summer) and thought I’d watch a few of the new Rough Cut episodes my DVR recorded. I had 13 in the box. Notice I said HAD. My DVR didn’t know the difference, but I did. All gone with the push of one button. I’ll edit my programs to record later. Maybe Tommy MacDonald and HGTV will get together. I hope he wins the lawsuit.

  13. I was waiting to see how he could balance his projects downstairs with the area he created upstairs with the natural sunlight for his wife to paint by. Such passion went into that project.
    New guy, by-bye.
    Tommy, love to you and yours… Miss you.

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