Manhattan Deli Prevails in Trademark Dispute

The 2nd Avenue Deli has successfully defended itself against allegations of trademark infringement over its “Instant Heart Attack Sandwich.”

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer ruled customers will not confuse the Manhattan latke with the Las Vegas cheeseburgers served by the Heart Attack Grill. The Manhattan deli sought the ruling under threat of litigation from the Las Vegas eatery. The judge noted, as a kosher restaurant, the deli does not serve sandwiches with both meat and cheese, so there should be no confusion.

The deli had sought the ruling that it was not infringing on the Heart Attack Grill’s trademark. Trademark issues are a common legal issue handled by Manhattan restaurant attorneys. In many cases, a restaurant’s signature dish is among its most prized competitive advantages – seeking legal protection before copycats become an issue is typically the best course of action.

In other cases, as happened here, a restaurant may be targeted by infringement allegations. Being forced to alter course or change a product can be a huge expense that includes rebranding and marketing. In some cases, it can even spell the death of a business.

In this case, 2nd Avenue Deli’s $24.95 sandwich is made of two potato pancakes, called latkes, stuffed with turkey, pastrami, salami or corned beef. A sandwich dubbed the Triple Bypass, which includes three latkes, is also now available for $34.95.

The judge, however, did limit the restaurant’s use of the names to the Manhattan area. The Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas said the decision allows it to retain “unbridled use of its trademarks throughout the entire United States.”

It illustrates the fact that geographical limits can also be placed on a copyright holder’s rights. Typically, having an experienced restaurant lawyer in New York City from the outset can best help you address these issues, as well as other potential legal roadblocks, before they arise.

Sometimes it’s a former employee. Earlier this year, the Huffington Post reported on the so-called “Weenie War,” between Chicago hotdog maker Vienna Beef and Red Hot Chicago, a company started by a former Vienna employer. In this case, Red Hot Chicago is also accused of ripping off much of its history and the story of its founding from the century-old Vienna Beef company.

Particularly when company secrets are at stake, having employment, confidentiality and non-compete contracts in place is the best way to protect business’ interests. An experienced Manhattan business attorney will also be in the best position to assist you with developing personnel policies and ensuring that you are complying with state and federal employment regulations.

The suit seeks monetary damages from Red Hot Chicago and an order for the company to stop making misleading statements about its products or origin.

 

The Wright Law Firm is a business law firm located in Midtown Manhattan. Call (212) 619-1500 for a confidential consultation.

Case: Lebewohl et al v. Heart Attack Grill LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-03153

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