There are many reasons why St. Louis and Chicago make for good Midwestern rival cities. There’s the Cardinals/Cubs baseball rivalry. There is also the Blackhawks/Blues rivalry (which is really just the reverse of the Cardinals/Cubs). These two cities have been major economic competitors, as well. But most people are not aware of the more recent BILLY GOAT trademark rivalry. This was started when Chicago’s Billy Goat Tavern filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against St. Louis’ Billy Goat Chip Co., and is still going on.
The Billy Goat Tavern is a chain of restaurants in the Chicago area that have been operating since the 1930s. The Tavern is most famous for being the inspiration behind a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live. You may remember it as the “cheeburger cheeburger” sketch starring John Belushi. The owners of the restaurant have a trademark registration for BILLY GOAT for “tavern and restaurant services” that was filed back in 1981.
On the other hand, the Billy Goat Chip Co. is a much newer business. They make and sell potato chips in recognizable little paper bags. They also own a trademark registration, which is for THE BILLY GOAT CHIP COMPANY for “potato chips.” They filed the application that preceded this registration in 2009, and claimed that their first use of the name with potato chips was also in 2009.
Issues and Current Status
The Billy Goat Tavern filed the trademark infringement lawsuit against The Billy Goat Chip Co. back in 2017. It claimed that it had prior rights to the BILLY GOAT name based on its use and earlier trademark registration. It also claimed that customers were confused over The Billy Goat Chip Co.’s use of BILLY GOAT in connection with its chips. Finally, it alleged that it was already selling food products under the BILLY GOAT name, and intended to add potato chips to its offerings, as well.
In response to the lawsuit, The Billy Goat Chip Co. made several arguments and even filed a counter-claim attempting to get a judgment that The Billy Goat Tavern cannot claim trademark rights to the BILLY GOAT name. First, the Billy Goat Chip Co. said that its use of THE BILLY GOAT CHIP COMPANY would not confuse consumers. It also argued that The Billy Goat Tavern did not have exclusive rights to the name BILLY GOAT because there are other food service companies that also use BILLY GOAT in their names. Finally, they argued that The Billy Goat Tavern had improperly used the ® symbol on food products for which it did not have a trademark registration.
The Billy Goat Chip Co. tried to have the lawsuit dismissed. However, a judge recently denied the motion, and the suit will move forward. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming months (and, more realistically, years).
Is a Trademark Infringer “Getting Your Goat?”
When you think that you have found someone infringing your trademark, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney before making any accusations. Otherwise, you might end up being the goat. And when starting a new business you need to make sure the name that you want to use is available. If not, you may be running your business with a big “chip” on your shoulder. Okay, enough with the bad puns. If you need assistance, please call me at (314) 479-3668, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or complete the contact form found on this page to schedule your free initial consultation today. I look forward to speaking with you.