Traveling Lumberjack Show Sues Wisconsin Lumberjack Show Over Paul Bunyan Trademark
from the timber dept
I recently took my annual fishing trip into northern Wisconsin and, on the way, stopped for breakfast at the Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty in the Dells. I didn’t realize at the time that this wonderful establishment that hurled eggs and pancakes at me was embroiled in a strange trademark dispute. See, in addition to being an eatery, Paul Bunyan’s also puts on a rather elaborate lumberjack show, complete with log rolling and cutting and all the rest. The problem, apparently, is that there is a traveling lumberjack show based out of Florida called the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, and that company has filed a trademark suit in federal court against the Dells eatery.
The owners of the Paul Bunyan Lumberback Show, based in St. Cloud, Florida, filed a lawsuit this week in federal court in Madison. The plaintiffs say the owners of the Paul Bunyan Cook Shanty in Wisconsin Dells can’t use the name of the mythical lumberjack in its show because they have trademarked it.
The Portage Daily Register says both shows include competition by professional lumberjacks in a variety of events, including chopping, sawing and log-rolling. The Dells show is held next to the restaurant while the Florida show travels around the country and included a stop last month in Wisconsin.
To my mind, it would be ridiculous enough for a company in Florida to lay claim to a fictional character that dates back to the early 1900’s, not to mention a fictional character whose many origin stories nevertheless are relegated to the locations north of the Mason-Dixon line. It’s more ridiculous still that this Florida-based traveling logger show would claim customer confusion with a Wisconsin Dells establishment that’s been around since the 1950’s. Paul Bunyan, by the way, is in the Public Domain.
Now, the Florida show has been using the name “Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show since 1988, but only registered it in 2014. The Dells restaurant, on the other hand, has been using the name “Paul Bunyan” for six decades, but only started its lumberjack show three years ago. It will be on a common law claim that the Florida show’s trademark suit rests. However, that really shouldn’t matter. There is little chance that any real customer confusion could be shown, particularly given the Dells company’s long-established history and use of the name.
That this is all over a public domain fictional figure shows how silly trademark has become.