Los Angeles Intellectual Property Team Secures Jury Verdict for Restaurant Chain in Trademark Dispute
Los Angeles, Calif. (September 27, 2019) - Los Angeles Partners Thomas S. Kiddé and Leo A. Bautista recently prevailed at trial, securing a federal jury verdict for a vegan restaurant in a trademark dispute, after its founder claimed that the company had used her name and likeness after her departure beyond their agreed cut-off date.
The plaintiff, known as “Chef Tanya,” was the founder of Native Foods restaurants, established in 1994. In 2009, she sold her five restaurants to one of the defendants. In 2011, she resigned from the company and, pursuant to a settlement agreement entered into in October 2012, the parties agreed that the company could use her name and likeness up to the end of November 2013.
Although the company took steps to remove the plaintiff’s name and likeness from the multiple restaurants in the chain at the time, two restaurants had the words “Chef Tanya” on an inside wall after the cutoff date. The plaintiff learned of this in early 2015 and notified the company, which removed the words immediately. Nonetheless, the plaintiff filed suit two weeks later in federal court, alleging breach of contract as to the company and two of its officers, as well as claims for misappropriation of likeness, unfair competition, and trademark infringement.
At closing, the plaintiff requested $1.5 million dollars under her various causes of action and $800,000 in punitive damages. Following the trial, the jury found that the plaintiff had not been harmed by any breach, that the use of her name on the wall was not for a commercial purpose, and that the plaintiff had no trademark rights, and returned a verdict in favor of the defendants on all claims.
Read more about this case on Law360 (subscription required).