Famous Billy Goat Tavern Initiates Risky Trademark Dispute With Billy Goat Chip Co.

from the here-comes-the-blowback dept

Missing from far too many of the stories we post on trademark bullies is anything amounting to blowback. While it happens on occasion, the reason that trademark bullying works is due to the costs for any sort of defense, nevermind the cost that would be required to actually go on the offense against a bully. Still, that isn't to say that when a trademark bully picks a fight that it cannot sometimes lead to a backfire.

That appears to be the risk Chicago's famous Billy Goat Tavern now faces after it sued Billy Goat Chip Co., given the countersuit and factual response made by the chip company. Billy Goat Tavern filed suit in 2017, alleging that the St. Louis potato chip maker was infringing on its trademark with its name and logo, which uses the silhouette of a rearing billy goat. For what it's worth, the tavern's logo is completely different and features a fully detailed cartoon head of a goat, not a black outline like the chip company.

But based on the information in the countersuit, it seems there is much more factual information the tavern ought to have considered before filing its initial lawsuit.

Attorneys representing the Billy Goat Chip Co. filed a counterclaim this month arguing the chip maker was actually the first to use the “Billy Goat” mark in connection with packaged retail food and beverage products.

The suit stated Billy Goat Tavern’s trademark was limited to only “tavern and restaurant services” and was later applied to packaged retail food and beverage products when the tavern started selling items such as frozen burger patties and canned beer through third-party vendors in 2017.

Oops. While the Billy Goat is indeed famous, it is famous for being a tavern. It did not even sell any retail packaged foodstuffs until the past year or so and never had a trademark for those market designations until the same time frame. Billy Goat Chip Co., on the other hand, has been selling its goods for a decade and has the trademark registration to match. In its countersuit, the chip company blasts Billy Goat Tavern for being the trademark bully it is.

To compensate for its tardiness in entering the retail food/beverage products market, Billy Goat IP has undertaken a campaign of deceptive trade practices, false advertising, misusing trademarks, misusing registration symbols, and misusing the Billy Goat Tavern Marks … in an effort to improperly injure and damage Billy Goat Chip Co..

The upshot being that Billy Goat Chips Co. is asking not only for the trademark lawsuit to be dismissed, but is also asking for damages for the tavern's false advertising and deceptive trade practices. Oh, and it is also asking the court to order the tavern to cease using the Billy Goat name for any packaged foods, the exact request the tavern initially sued over.

If the chip company wins, it would represent as clean a backfire from trademark bullying as I can remember. It would also be a helpful warning shot to other trademark bullies about what can happen.


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