Yesterday the Wall Street Journal posted a piece by Julie Jargon — a former Westword staff writer — reporting on a trademark dispute between Kimbal Musk, co-founder of The Kitchen restaurant group, and restaurant heavyweight Wolfgang Puck, who currently runs more than fifty fine-dining, fast-casual and airport food operations around the world. The problem? The names of two of Puck's latest, The Kitchen By Wolfgang Puck and The Kitchen Counter (both in Grand Rapids, Michigan), bear a striking similarity to Musk's original Boulder eatery, The Kitchen, which has since branched out to locations in Denver, Fort Collins and Chicago, with more on the way.
This may seem like a coincidence based on a somewhat unimaginative choice for a restaurant name, but according to the WSJ report, the two men are acquainted and Puck apparently picked Musk's brain about his farm-to-table concept at a meeting more than three years ago — before Puck's version of The Kitchen opened.
Musk has since filed notice with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office opposing trademark requests filed for the names The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck and The Kitchen Counter by Wolfgang Puck.
While Puck's group still runs a branch of Spago in Beaver Creek and a Wolfgang Puck Express at Denver International Airport, other attempts to break into the Denver market have not fared so well: The Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe in the Denver Pavilions and a Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Cherry Creek (in the space that's now Harman's) both had short lives.
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Jargon's story quoted Marc Reiner, a New York trademark attorney who isn't involved in the dispute. "“The general principle is that it’s better to come up with a creative name,” he said.
We agree, and are even suggesting a resolution: The two restaurateurs could team up and open a string of eateries named Musk & Puck, which has a nice ring to it.
This isn't the first legal dance for the The Kitchen group, which successfully defended the name Next Door (which currently has restaurants in Boulder, Denver and Glendale) against Next Door Food & Drink in Loveland, which changed its name to Door 222. And while there are plenty of restaurants that use the word "kitchen" as part of their names, if Musk wants to continue this campaign, Next Door Lounge at 1612 East 17th Avenue could be an easy target.