Angry Couple Using Trademark To Bully Oyster Bar Over Menu Item Names
from the aw-shucks dept
Trademark is for a lot of things (not it isn’t), but one of the things it is definitely not for is for jilted ex-business contacts to fight with 3rd parties because they are butt-hurt about not being able to pay the rent. And if that hasn’t confused you enough, come see what’s going on in Louisiana, where a couple that had purchased a restaurant and then, failing to pay the rent on time to the original owners, decided that they would go trademark-crazy on the new ownership that replaced them.
Mark Fayard and Susan Martisen purchased Metairie oyster icon Bozo’s and its trademarks in 2008 from elderly Chris “Bozo” Vodanovich, but after years of allegedly paying late rent on the property, the Vodanovich family successfully ousted them from the building in 2013 and the restaurant was no more. That’s when restaurateur Ed McIntyre swooped in and bought the actual property at 3117 21st St., revamping the restaurant and resurrecting beloved menu items and the legendary oyster bar, though under the Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar & Fish House name. McIntyre had the blessings of Chris Bozo Vodanovich—a real passing of the reigns— who often visited Mr. Ed’s until he passed away at age 86 in late 2014.
Are we all clear? Fayard and Martisen bought Bozo’s restaurant and trademarks, but not the actual building, for which they had to pay the Vodanovich’s rent, and then promptly failed to pay the rent on time, leading to their eviction. It’s important to note that the restaurant closed down completely at that point. As in, it didn’t engage in commerce any longer. It ceased to be. It became an ex-restaurant. Which, of course, means the Bozo’s trademarks were no longer in use.
Not that this stopped Fayard and Martisen from sending a cease and desist letter demanding that Mr. Ed’s stop using a bunch of the trademarks they’re still claiming.
They sent a cease-and-desist letter demanding that the restaurant stop saying it’s been “Shucking Here Since 1979” or calling itself the “Oldest Standup Oyster Bar in Metairie.” The letter also demanded that Mr. Ed’s stop offering dishes with “Mr. Chris” in their names.
The duo are now suing Mr. Ed’s for allegedly not complying with the cease and desist, though the restaurant has since stopped describing itself as having the ‘oldest standup oyster bar in Metairie.’ As for the menu items, McIntyre argues that the two dishes known as “Mr. Chris Gumbo chicken and andouille gumbo” and “Mr. Chris homemade hamburger steak” are both an “homage to a man he called a friend for four decades” and not trademark infringement.
So, again, we have to people whose restaurant was shut down completely, suing the owner of a new restaurant for trademark violations on phrases and menu items they’re no longer using. And it’s apparently gotten petty enough that part of the dispute is over menu items harkening back to the man who owned the original restaurant, which is no longer in business. Sometimes I’m not really sure what trademark is actually for any longer, but I am quite sure it isn’t this.