Cognate's Trademark Blog

Billy Goat Battle Heats Up

Here at Cognate we love a TM battle. This week our favorite is the battle of the Billy Goats. Cook County Record reports…..” Judge refuses try by St. Louis Billy Goat Chips maker to dismiss Chicago Billy Goat’s trademark suit”

In an ongoing battle of the Billy Goats, a federal judge this week gave a win to the iconic Chicago side, saying the Billy Goat Tavern can continue with its trademark infringement lawsuit against a St. Louis snack chip maker.

On Aug. 7, U.S. District Judge Robert Dow Jr. rejected a motion by Billy Goat Chip Company, of St. Louis, to dismiss the legal action it faces from Billy Goat IP, owners of Chicago’s Billy Goat Tavern, the subterranean N. Michigan Avenue dive made famous in a 1978 “Saturday Night Live” sketch.

St. Louis residents Rob Lyons and Brian Roth started selling Billy Goat Chip Company products on Feb. 15, 2009, and registered their trademark on March 30, 2010. They say the name comes from the Billy Goat Hill area of St. Louis, and note their product packaging mentions the city as well as Missouri. This, they said,  should ameliorate any confusion, even though they now are sold near Billy Goat taverns in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

The St. Louis businessmen further said they tried to negotiate an agreement earlier this decade in hopes of avoiding lawsuits, and noted they were selling chips in stores and online for years before the tavern began licensing its name for other packaged retail food and beverages in April 2017.

The tavern filed a trademark infringement complaint against the snack maker in December, and the chip company filed a counterclaim in March. It then filed a motion to dismiss the tavern’s initial complaint for failure to state a claim. The main argument was that the tavern’s Lanham Act claims should be dismissed because owners should’ve known about the chips in 2010, and expressly knew the chips were on the market in Chicago in 2014, yet didn’t initiate a lawsuit until 2017.

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