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What’s in a name? In restaurant business, maybe a trademark suit

| Apr 12, 2013 | Uncategorized |

Las Vegas is famous for its restaurants. Besides the gambling, nightclubs and shows, one of the things that attract millions of tourists each year is the chance to eat at a top-flight (and top-dollar) restaurant, perhaps one owned by a celebrity chef like Emeril Lagasse or Mario Batali. Even if no big names are behind the restaurant, as in all businesses, a memorable name for the place itself makes a big difference.

But maybe there are only so many ways to say “steakhouse” or “Italian cuisine,” because in recent years there has been a rash of trademark infringement litigation between restaurants over who has the rights to certain names. Batali, who co-owns a steakhouse in a Las Vegas casino, was involved in one particularly high-profile case.

Batali was an investor in a New York restaurant called The Spotted Pig that was operated by another chef. Then, Batali’s fellow celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey applied for a trademark in the U.K. for that same name, presumably to open his own eatery. Both sides sued and well-known observers like Jamie Oliver and Anthony Bourdain proclaimed their support for the New York Spotted Pig on Twitter. Eventually, Ramsey withdrew his application.

The issue for the owner of a trademarked business name is that no competitor can use an identical or similar name for his or her business to confuse customers into thinking they are patronizing a restaurant owned by the trademark holder. The names do not have to be the same. In another case, a hot dog restaurant called Rutt’s Hut won a judgment against a competitor which called itself Mutt’s Hut International. The court ruled that Mutt’s Hut violated Rutt’s Hut’s trademark and the former changed its name to Red Hots.

Source: The Bergen Record, “Trademark battle put tension on the menu,” Bill Ervolino, March 31, 2013


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