Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C.

Restaurant owners settle trademark dispute over names

Few businesses depend upon their names to the same extent as restaurants. A restaurant's name can signify the kind of dining experience the restaurant provides and can become a key element of word-of-mouth marketing. A trademark infringement lawsuit involving similar restaurant names was recently avoided when the owners of two New York City restaurants found a creative solution to their dispute.

One of the city's most famous restaurants, the Four Seasons, closed in April 2016 after the owners of its home, the Seagram Building, declined to renew the restaurant's lease. The new lessee of the Four Seasons space, The Major Food Group, recently announced plans to call the remodeled space The Landmark Rooms. Unfortunately, the owner of a restaurant chain in the city known as Landmarc bistros, which operates restaurants under that name in Tribeca and the Time Warner Center, felt that the new name was deceptively similar to that of his own restaurants. As his lawyer alleged in the complaint, the two names are pronounced exactly the same, thus creating a high risk of confusion about which restaurant is which.

After learning about the new name for the Four Seasons space, the Landmarc owner filed a lawsuit alleging trademark infringement. However, rather than engage in protracted and expensive litigation, the two owners found a way to settle their trademark dispute. The owners of the proposed Landmark Rooms agreed to give up that name and instead use separate names for each of the two discrete restaurants in the space. The southern space will be called the Grill, and the northern space will be called the Pool, a reference to the pool that has long been a part of that space. The owner said that "The Landmark Rooms was a way to describe the space and was never intended as a restaurant name."

The resolution of this case shows how a mutual understanding of the parties' interests can provide a path to an effective and quick settlement. The knowledge and experience of the parties' attorneys also plays a crucial role in the settlement process. The lawyers in this case may have understood that their clients made money by running restaurants, not by engaging in an expensive lawsuit.

Source: Eater Magazine, "The Four Seasons Reboot Won't Be Called The Landmark Rooms Anymore [Updated]," Ryan Sutton, Mar. 27, 2017

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