Saturday, October 13, 2007

What is in a name? A lawsuit!

Yes, names make a difference. So learned a Muncie business. Muncie pub gets threat of legal action from steakhouse chain.

A new downtown Muncie eatery has been threatened with legal action by a well-known restaurant chain with a similar name. Attorneys for the Morton's of Chicago steakhouse chain this week sent a letter to Ty Morton, the owner of Morton's Pub and Grub, demanding he change the name of his restaurant, which opened Tuesday.
This is trademark law, pure and simple. Big companies keep an eye out for those businesses with similar names. Generally speaking, the law asks if there is a likelihood of confusion to the public created by the different businesses. One case coming to mind right now is the one between Lexus (yeas, the car) and Lexis (a publisher). No likelihood of confusion there.

Businesses must do this or lose the value of the trademark.

All that said, two things surprise me in this article. First, why did the business owner not consult an attorney before opening the business. One does not need a patent attorney to know something about trademarks. I think I would have advised him that this kind of action was possible even though I think the likelihood of confusion is small.

Second, why did go all the way to Texas for a patent attorney when there is one in Anderson and one in Muncie (or used to be)? I am trying to expand my trademark practice and I am sure there are others locally or within Indiana who are knowledgeable about trademarks.

Update 7/3/08. Morton's Pub & Grub to close:

MUNCIE — Another downtown eatery that went public with its struggles to find and keep customers has closed.

Morton’s Pub & Grub will close after July 19, owners Ty and Stacy Morton announced today.

Ty Morton had told The Star Press a few weeks ago that the restaurant, located in a building at High and Main streets that has been the scene of many failed restaurants, was struggling.