Man Claims Trademark On 'Goats On A Roof'
from the morons-in-a-hurry-or-goats-on-your-roof dept
Reader t-dogg points us to a WSJ story highlighting the ridiculous situations that come out of trademark law these days. Apparently Lars Johnson, the owner of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, trademarked putting goats on your building to attract customers. You see, Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant has a grass roof, and Lars has goats climb up there to graze. It’s a nice stunt, though, it does seem a bit questionable from a trademark standpoint. Just because one business uses goats to attract customers, is there really a likelihood of confusion that any other business that also uses goats is somehow associated with the first business? That seems unlikely. It’s like saying only one restaurant can put up neon signs. Still, Lars’ lawyer believes that his goats on a roof trademark is pretty strong, and they think any food-based business that uses goats to attract customers is worth going after:
Any business that sells food and uses goats to lure customers may be violating the trademark, says Lori Meddings, the restaurant’s lawyer.
Naturally, this leads to some ridiculous situations where Lars and his lawyer are concerned about goats randomly attracting interest:
In July, Virginia news outlets reported that goats on a hillside routinely hopped onto a platform under a billboard advertising two International House of Pancakes restaurants. Drivers pulled over to snap pictures, and one IHOP manager was quoted saying he enjoyed the publicity. Mr. Johnson says his lawyer is monitoring the situation in case “they take it a step further.” Lisa Hodges, who manages one of the restaurants, says she doesn’t plan to intentionally use the goats for marketing. “We can’t help it that they climb up there,” she says.
Read that again, and let me know if that’s how trademark law should work. Oh, and it’s not just live goats. Apparently fake goats get Lars’ goat up as well:
Mr. Johnson says the restaurant’s Milwaukee law firm has sent letters to other alleged offenders, such as a gift shop in Wisconsin with a fake goat on its roof. It removed the ersatz ungulate.
The story notes that since the goats on a roof trademark doesn’t extend to other countries, goats on roof restaurants have shown up elsewhere — and a Canadian goats-on-a-roof restaurant owner has decided not to trademark his own version. Instead, he prefers to compete in the market place, noting that his restaurant has “a lot more to offer than what’s on the roof,” and, anyway, he claims his goats are bigger.
This is what we get when we live in an age where people think trademark is property that they can use to prevent others from doing things.