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?

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Comments on “Do Morons In A Hurry Like Lettuce Restaurants?”

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43 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

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.

hegemon13 says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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…

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

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.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Timetofile says:

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”.

R. Miles (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Kirk says:

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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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