Another day, another trademark dispute and America’s burger war rages on.
Among the most recent clashes involved Elmwood Park’s Burger Boss, 7512 W. North Ave., a fast-casual food restaurant independently owned by brothers Nick and Anthony Gambino.
Brothers Gambino, who grew up in Elmwood Park, want their customers to know, however, that the beef – ahem – with a California chain of the same name – forcing them to rebrand – will not result in a change to their menu. It even says so on a large sign inside the recently renamed Burger Moovment.
“A trademark issue might have pushed us to change our name, but nothing can change US or our BURGERS! We are not just another burger joint, but a MOOVment,” the sign reads.
Reached by phone, Anthony Gambino – also co-owner of Cucina Paradiso and Twomaytoz Event Catering in Oak Park – declined to discuss the details of the name dispute, but noted the change was made official in July.
He said it took several weeks to get new signs and menus and to overhaul their website and media presence.
Gambino said when they opened the restaurant five years ago, there were other Burger Boss restaurants in other parts of the country but none in the Chicago area.
Matthew Sag, Loyola University law professor, said the California Burger Boss registered a federal trademark on the name in 2011, the same year the Elmwood Park Burger Boss opened.
“If neither had registered, then each would have the rights to that name in whatever geographic market they’re in; trademark is a first-come, first-served system,” Sag said.
And if the local Burger Boss had been in business first, even if it had been last to get a trademark, it still would have retained the right to use the name locally. “But it doesn’t look like [Gambino] was first,” he said.
He said trademark disputes are “a tough lesson but not uncommon” because so much is involved in opening a small business, owners often forget or simply don’t know to do it.
Business owners sometimes believe that registering the name with the state gives them the exclusive right to use it, but the trademark system is run by the federal government under the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Sag said, noting that the USPTO’s website has a searchable database of registered trademarks.
Sag said it costs about $500 to get a company trademarked. “I often tell people they can go online and register it themselves,” he said.
Burger Boss isn’t the first locally owned business to make headlines over a name change. In 2011, the Forest Park restaurant Duckfat – known for its French fries fried in duck fat, changed its name to Fatduck because of a trademark dispute with a restaurant with the same name in Portland, Maine.
Now that the switch to Burger Moovment is finished, the Gambinos are working to get the word out and have created the hashtag #StillTheSame and have been holding weekly contests and giving out prizes to those who post it on social media.
“We’ve had some clientele who said, ‘It really doesn’t matter what the name is – if the product is the same, we’re going to stay loyal,'” Gambino said.