What is in a name? A whole lot when it comes to trademarks and one metro Detroit restaurant group believes its name and reputation are being infringed on. Joe Vicari Restaurant Group, operator of Joe Muer Seafood has filed a lawsuit against a forthcoming Clinton Township restaurant alleging trademark infringement and deceptive business practices, according to The Macomb Daily.
Andiamo’s owner Joe Vicari filed the lawsuit last week against Muer’s Table + Bar, a seafood restaurant owned by Dave Muer (a nephew of Joe Muer) that’s expected to open this spring at the Mall of Partridge Creek. Vicari purchased the rights to the Joe Muer Seafood brand — including its name, trademark, recipes, and designs — in 2011, and claims that Muer’s Table + Bar is illegally using that family name.
According to the suit, the restaurant’s moniker “has caused and will continue to cause actual confusion” for customers who will associate it with the unaffiliated Joe Muer Seafood brand. The filing alleges that design features at Muer’s Table + Bar such as black and white checkered floors, a lobster tank, and chandeliers, are all meant to remind diners of the original Joe Muer’s.
In a press release for Muer’s Table + Bar earlier this year, Dave Muer drew connection’s to his family legacy:
“We carry the torch originally lit in Detroit in 1929 at Joe Muer’s and will strive to continue the authentic legacy of my family. That is to prepare and serve the freshest seafood, cooked to perfection at a very approachable price for everyone to enjoy,” Dave Muer said. “My experience growing up a Muer, and operating my own restaurant on Detroit’s east side for 33 years, has prepared me to continue to build on my family’s mission.”
Eater has reached out to Muer’s Table + Bar for a statement regarding the lawsuit.
The Joe Vicari Restaurant Group has been ambitious with its expansion of the Joe Muer Seafood brand. Last fall, the company confirmed plans to open multiple locations across the U.S. including Bloomfield Hills, Las Vegas, Nashville, and possibly Grand Rapids.
Trademark disputes in the food world are very common and occasionally result in a name change. Soon-to-open Ferndale brewery, Urbanrest, was initially supposed to be called “Neighborhood Brewing Company” but was forced to change the title in order to avoid a legal scuffle with a beer company in New Hampshire.
Update, 8:35 a.m., 3/22: In a statement to Eater, Jonathan B. Frank, an attorney representing Muer’s Table + Bar for the law firm Maddin Hauser Roth & Heller, PC writes:
This dispute is not between members of the Muer family. The lawsuit was started by Joe Vicari, who purchased the right to use “Joe Muer” and “Joe Muer Seafood” from Joe Muer in 2011. Mr. Vicari is now trying to prevent other restaurants from using the Muer family name. But David Muer, a longtime Detroit-area restaurateur, has every right under state and federal law to open a restaurant operating under the Muer name, as have other family members Chuck Muer and Susan Muer, along with the Kruse and Muer chain. David Muer respects Mr. Vicari’s right to use “Joe Muer” and “Joe Muer Seafood” and has no desire to cause any confusion between his new restaurant and Mr. Vicari’s restaurant.
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