The Papas and the Pappas: Burger Joint Rebrands Over Trademark Dispute
from the no-good-deed dept
We’re going to keep repeating this until it becomes common knowledge: trademark law is designed to keep the public from being confused as to the source of a good or service, not as some mechanism for businesses to lock up language in a competitive marketplace. In other words, if there is no risk of customer confusion, trademark laws very rarely come into play in terms of disputes or infringement.
Which brings us to Papa’s Burgers in Texas and its announcement that it will be changing its name and branding.
So, a company that has existed as Papa’s Burgers for 8 years is changing its name due to a C&D notice. So what’s going on here? Well, the company decided to finally get around to trademarking its name but was advised by its counsel that there was another large restaurant group that had a similar name. That company was Pappas Restaurants, which operates a wide swath of venues, such as Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Pappas Seafood House, and, yes, Pappas Burger.
Due to the that input from counsel, Papa’s Burgers owner Robert Walker sent a letter to Pappas Restaurants explaining his respect for their business and his intention to trademark his business name. Kind of a nice thing to do. His reward for that was receiving the C&D notice.
Counsel advised Walker that he can fight the trademark since it’s a one-letter difference and a different city, but that it could be very costly – upwards of $25,000 just to start the process.
The second option is to rebrand. A difficult decision Walker said, because the restaurant has already received so many public accolades in the nearly 9 years it’s been open.
Note that last bit: Papa’s Burgers has been operating for 9 years. The C&D notice sent by Pappas Restaurants doesn’t say that the company should not use the name in new restaurants; it insists it stops using its name entirely. Except surely Pappas Restaurants would have already heard about all of this and sent a C&D long ago if there was any reason to think there would be public confusion here. And, yet, the company only fired off a C&D once Walker informed them that his business exists and that he planned to file for a trademark. That sure seems to indicate that any worry about customer confusion is unwarranted, no?
Unfortunately, that is now a moot point. Papa’s Burgers is changing its name as a result of all of this. Because trademark bullying works.