Do Morons In A Hurry Like Lettuce Restaurants?

from the lettuce-be dept

First it was a trademark fight over potatoes, and now lettuce? Eric Goldman points us to a trademark fight over the use of the word "Lettuce" in the name of a restaurant. You see, there's a restaurant chain called Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, who apparently got the trademark on "LETTUCE" when used in restaurant or catering businesses. Yet, a couple of folks, apparently blissfully unaware of such a trademark, tried to open up a restaurant called "Lettuce mix." When confronted over this issue, they covered their original sign with a banner that read: "Let us be!" and "Name pending..." but with images of heads of lettuce.

Now, even if you accept that it makes sense for Lettuce Entertain You to own the trademark on "LETTUCE" in such situations, it would seem like what the new restaurant owners did was reasonable. Not so, according to LEYE. It's claiming that the new name pending banner still violates its trademark. Either way, the Lettuce mix owners are fighting back against the entire trademark claim over the word lettuce, and put up that other banner to call some attention to the trademark threat.

While the battle over the larger trademark issue will continue, in the meantime, the judge in the case denied the injunction request against the temporary banner, noting that the banner itself protesting the trademark dispute isn't actually "use in commerce" and thus, is not covered by trademark law.

Either way... really? There's a legal battle going on as to whether or not you can use the word "lettuce" (or even a homonym with an image of lettuce) in the name of a salad bar? What is the world coming to?


Reader Comments (rss)

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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 4:18pm

    This makes no sense

    They got a TM on "Lettuce?" I'm going to get one on "Steak" and sue the crap out of Ruth's Chris.

    The system is well and truly fraked.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:12pm

      Re: This makes no sense

      Hypberole, thou name art ChurchHatesTucker. They got a trademark on the word "lettuce" only when used as the name of a restaurant. Since there are many restaurants that already use the word "steak" as part of the title, you would not be successful in getting the trademark, and neither could you sue Ruth's Chris because "steak" is not part of their name, that is a description of what they are.

       

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        hegemon13, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 7:22am

        Re: Re: This makes no sense

        Um, lettuce is a food served in most restaurants. How can they possibly have trademarked using the name of a food to describe a restaurant that serves...er...lettuce. The trademark should never have been granted, and it should definitely now be repealed. They should reasonably be able to get the patent on their full name, but not just one word from it.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:59am

          Re: Re: Re: This makes no sense

          Ummm..."Repealing" the trademark might be difficult given they have had it for 20 years, and have used it continuously.

          What is more interesting is that their trademark is the only one for using the word "lettuce." Four other applicants have tried to trademark logos or names using lettuce after the holder above, but all of them were rejected or abandoned.

           

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        ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 8:19am

        Re: Re: This makes no sense

        "...and neither could you sue Ruth's Chris because "steak" is not part of their name, that is a description of what they are."

        I'll give you a hint: "Ruth's Chris" is not the full name.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 9:54am

          Re: Re: Re: This makes no sense

          You are right. Their full name is "Ruth's Chris Steak House." However, that also means you could not get a trademark on "steak" because it is used, quite commonly, to describe steak restaurants.

           

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            ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 11:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: This makes no sense

            " However, that also means you could not get a trademark on "steak"..."

            If you could get one on "Lettuce" you may very well be able to get one on "Steak." I'm sure you could challenge it in court, were you so disposed (i.e., moneyed.)

            That's just mind-boggling stupid. Benny Hill slap-upside-the-head stupid. The *name of a food item* can be trademarked by a restaurant? Who, besides a trademark lawyer, would think that makes any kind of sense?

            I should get a trademark on "Leafy Green Vegetables," and head them off at the pass. Frak it, I'm getting a trademark on "Restaurant." Frak all y'all.

            Frakin' morons.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 11:51am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This makes no sense

              No, you could not get a trademark on steak in court. Trademarks are issued by the USPTO and they do not care how much money you have.

              "Leafy Green Vegetables" would probably be permissible as the name of a restaurant. You could not trademark restaurant because that is a purely descriptive term, which is not allowed as a trademark. And before you complain about "Lettuce," that term describes the name of the restaurant, not the vegetable.

               

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                ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 3:05pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This makes no sense

                "No, you could not get a trademark on steak in court."

                You must be in a hurry. I said you'd have to go to court to challenge it.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 6:29pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This makes no sense

                  Wrong. If the USPTO rejected you, you would go the the TTAB to challenge it. Now, if the TTAB rejected you, which is likely, then you could go to either federal district court or the CAFC, which are also likely to reject you. The Supreme Court would not hear your case. All of them would recognize that you are in a hurry.

                   

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                    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 27th, 2009 @ 5:20pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This makes no sense

                    I stand corrected. You'd appeal to a board composed of "judges," not a court.

                     

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                      Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2009 @ 4:28pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: This makes no sense

                      They call the people who kick people off "American Idol" judges. So what? That does not make them a court, as a moron in a hurry would readily recognize.

                       

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    BigFN-J (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 4:21pm

    wow, just .... wow.....

    courts need to throw this crap out.

    Lettuce

    LETTUCE

    lettuce mix up some salad.....

    sue me

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:13pm

      Re:

      No. You may use lettuce all you want to. Knock yourself out. The trademark only prevents you using "letuce" as the name of your restaurant.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 4:44pm

    iBacon

    Everyone knows that iceburg lettuce is the worst.

    Step it up a notch above Iceburg Lettuce which is well known to have ZERO nutritional value.

    Why not call it "Romaine Rule", "Hearts and Tomatoes", "The Parisian Feast" or even a simple "Green's"

    I tried to figure out one with a whitty Bacon reference, but alas, I couldn't do it. So click on the link...

     

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    Yuniverse (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    need to sue the stupid judges granting these trademarks and equally idiotic patents. It's so screwed up...

     

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    Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 6:36pm

    Lettuce Sue You

    I have a LETTUCE Entertain You frequent diner card. Which means I have actually been to their restaurants. Do you know what their restaurants are called?

    Here's their list: http://www.leye.com/restaurants

    Not one of them uses "Lettuce" in the resto name. "Lettuce" is not "used in commerce" in any consumer-facing way, but is only used as the parent company's name.

    How does "Lettuce Mix" cause confusion with the aggressor chain's Cafe Ba Ba Re Ba or other non-lettuce named establishments? Please have their lawyers explain.

    A moron in a hurry would not be able to spot any similarity between the trade names at all, let alone be confused by it.

    I particularly like the conglomerate's "Chez Gabi" restaurant on the Vegas strip, but most of their places are in Chicago.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 8:35pm

      Re: Lettuce Sue You

      Let me get this straight. You have "Lettuce Entertain You" frequent diner card, and yet, "Lettuce" is not "used in commerce"? I see. Well, I am interested in how your frequent diner card is not used in commerce.

      It does not matter whether a "moron in a hurry" would recognize the difference in names. The trademark is for the word "lettuce" when used in conjunction with restaurants.

       

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        Derek Kerton (profile), Jul 3rd, 2009 @ 11:10am

        Re: Re: Lettuce Sue You

        As you may know, trademark is about NOT confusing customers.

        One company uses Lettuce (the accepted name of a food) as a descriptive part of their restaurant's name. They use lettuce the way "Gino's Pizza" uses "pizza" (you would encourage a lawsuit from another pizza company?).

        Meanwhile, another company uses lettuce as the name of a holding company that owns restaurants. They use lettuce as a homonym for "let us", not as related to the vegetable. They operate commercial restaurants, none of which have "lettuce" in their name.

        You are sneaky in the way you quoted me, trying to make it look like I said "Lettuce is not used in commerce", then positioning me as an idiot who has a commercial card from them in my wallet. The full quote has a very different meaning:

        "Lettuce" is not "used in commerce" in any consumer-facing way, but is only used as the parent company's name."

        One is the name of a holding company, and the other is the name of a restaurant. Different sectors, in my opinion.

         

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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Jun 25th, 2009 @ 7:19pm

    OK everyone. Stop saying that these people are stupid. That is just plain not true. Patents are a great way to make a ton of money without having to do anymore work. It is a perfectly valid business model whereby somebody else (the government) does work so you don't have to. That may not be good for society, immoral, annoying and discouraging innovation, but it is making some people a ton of money which is their goal... When Microsoft sues Apple and get a hundred million dollars, they are not stupid. They got a hundred million dollars which is definitely in their advantage. When cab drivers fight to have a monopoly, they are not stupid, they are fighting for themselves. Nothing stupid about that.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 8:37pm

      Re:

      Patents are a great way to make money without having to do any work? Really? I think the vast majority of inventors would love to hear how that works.

      Most inventors work for companies that actually make products using those inventions. Even if the patents are asserted against others, lawsuits are long, expensive and time-consuming, even for the plaintiffs. Given that most plaintiffs lose, seems like betting on a patent to make money is a lot like playing the lottery.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 8:41pm

      Re:

      There are two little bitty flaws with your (not-so-great) plan. First, you have to use the word in interstate commerce. Second, you have to prove you are using the word in interstate commerce and pay the fees. You have to keep proving you are using the word in interstate commerce periodically, or you risk losing the trademark.

      So, trademark every word in the English language. Doing some rough math, I estimate that with attorney fees and USPTO fees, it would cost you more zero's than I can count to trademark all words for all purposes (because "lettuce" could also be trademarked for, as an example, a money exchange store).

      Also, very, VERY few trademark suits end up worth any money. The vast majority of the time the infringing party is required to stop using the trademark. That is all. No money.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 10:00pm

      Re:

      Are you an idiot, then? Because this article is about trademark, not patent. Please, try to keep up.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 5:11am

        Re: Re:

        Yes, but people with an anti-patent agenda will always find a way to connect patents with anything...abortion, killing baby seals, killing kittens, starving people, etc.

         

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    Timetofile, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 7:44pm

    Here's an Idea

    Quick now, go get the dictionary and find every word that references food...hell just go and file trademarks on any word that does not already have a trademark. You'll be set for life as every business out there has to pay up.

    Until everyone changes their names to symbols and are referred to as "the business formerly known as".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2009 @ 9:07pm

    LEYE need a good dressing down. If it’s not covered by trademark law, it should be covered by coleslaw. May I suggest that Lettuce Mix rename to Caesar Moment.

     

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    R. Miles (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 3:45am

    What?

    What is the world coming to?
    Mike, do you not read your own articles? Techdirt's been around since 1997, spilling all the details of the absurdities of corporations and governments around the globe.

    It's been 12 years, and you're just now asking this question?
    ;)

    Ignoring the rhetorical hint of the question, I can easily answer it with one word: Chaos.

    There. Now you can sleep better at night.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 5:28am

      Re: What?

      Chaos? Yup, ditch patents, ditch trademarks, ditch copyright, and yes, you get Chaos, Masnick style.

       

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 6:30am

    LEYE not NEARLY as untertaining as Superdawg in Chicago vs. Superdog in NYC...

     

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    RoyO (profile), Jun 26th, 2009 @ 7:14am

    The real issue here is each individual's willingness to participate in a system whose only true purpose is to allow a few of us to take advantage of the rest of us. At some point we must evolve beyond the stage of cannibalism.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 10:01am

      Re:

      Yeah. So anyone should be able to use the name "Lettuce Entertain You" for a business name. Of course, your average consumer would be confused and frustrated that there were several companies using the same name, with different products and quality, but what the hey, anything to prevent people from taking an advantage over the rest of us.

       

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    Kirk, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 10:25am

    Come Again?

    "Most inventors work for companies that actually make products using those inventions. Even if the patents are asserted against others, lawsuits are long, expensive and time-consuming, even for the plaintiffs. Given that most plaintiffs lose, seems like betting on a patent to make money is a lot like playing the lottery."

    Exactly what point are you trying to make about the usefullness of the current patent system?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2009 @ 11:54am

      Re: Come Again?

      No point about the system at all. The point was people believing that inventors invent something and sit back and watch money roll in. I have yet to see an inventor that was able to sit back and watch money roll in without exerting a substantial amount of effort or spend a substantial amount of money, or both.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 13th, 2010 @ 1:13pm

    LEYE is absurd. And I certainly won't patronize any of their places any more>

     

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