Why shouldn’t a restaurateur be able to use his own name on his business?
There’s quite possibly a lot of good reasons to stop him — especially if he sold the name when he sold his previous restaurant, along with the trademark, recipes and designs.
Here’s the problem. Joe Muer sold his original restaurant and everything associated with it to the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group, which became the owner of Joe Muer Seafood.
A few years have passed and Joe Muer has decided to enter the restaurant business again, opening Muer’s Table Bar, another seafood restaurant. It also has several design nods that are intended to remind customers of the old place, including a distinctive floor pattern, chandeliers and lobster tank.
Now the two Joes are locked into a fight about whether or not the new restaurant is creating confusion for customers and is an act of unfair competition.
While many might be tempted to feel some sympathy for Joe Muer — after all, his business rivals want him barred from using the name that’s his and the reputation he earned with it — it’s important to remember that he sold both of those things willingly. The reputation associated with the name was part of the purchase price he got when he sold to the other Joe.
You can also think of it this way: If a Ron McDonald opened up a burger joint and called it “McDonald’s,” while simultaneously offering a McBurger special and erecting a big “M” out front, the issue with the brand confusion would probably be clear.
This dispute is critical for the other Joe in the picture, because the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group has plans to open multiple Joe Muer Seafood locations around the country. Trademark disputes aren’t unusual in the restaurant business and can result in a forced name change in order to avoid confusion and lost revenue.
If you’re having trouble with a trademark dispute and you believe it is creating unfair competition with your business, talk to an attorney with experience in commercial litigation today.
Source: Detroit Free Press, “New ‘Muer’ restaurant rips off old name, lawsuit claims,” Ann Zaniewski, March 21, 2017