Milk Street Cafe creamed in trademark case; TV chef gets to keep using 'Milk Street' in his new venture's name

A federal judge ruled today that Christopher Kimball can keep calling his new company Christopher Kimball's Milk Street despite opposition from the older Milk Street Cafe because the two companies don't directly compete and because the cafe failed to show it was being harmed by confusion or loss of customers.

In a memorandum and order, US District Court Judge Denise Casper said that Milk Street Cafe, despite a brief foray into New York, is a strictly local concern that relies mainly on customers downtown and uses only minimal advertising consisting mainly of things such as putting its logo on delivery trucks and coffee cups. In contrast, she said, Kimball's new concern is a national company aimed at offering information and products to people who want to learn to cook and isn't in the restaurant or catering business.

And, she said, Kimball chose the name because his new office is also on Milk Street, not to take business away from the cafe, founded in 1981, which he claimed to have never heard of before.

At a trial last month, Casper ruled, Milk Street Cafe said its business remains strong despite Kimball's venture. The cafe also did not use the phrase "Milk Street" alone, she said, noting that even though it owned the milkstreet.com domain, it redirects users to milkstreetcafe.com. And that means the name remains a geographic location without any "secondary" meaning that would make people think of the cafe or its kosher offerings, she wrote, adding that the two company's logos were also distinct.

But while Casper sided with Kimball, she did deny his request to strip Milk Street Cafe of the trademark it won in 2011.

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As if McDonald's, Inc. would have to prove any of those things

(Confusion, loss of business, "harm", etc) if my friend Kelly McDonald tried to open a sub shop called McDonald's Subs. It would be an absolute nonstarter, I bet. Might makes right as far as these things go. Whoever has the most lawyers gets to tell the judge what to write in their "decision."

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One vital difference here.

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McDonald's sells food. Your sub shop sells food. If you decide to name your sub shop McDonald's, the potential for confusion is implied because you and the other McDonalds both sell food.

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Is it his street?

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I never quite understood the name of this new venture, is it like Ruth's Chris Steak House (which I also don't quite get)? Does he own Milk Street?

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If the cafe had won,

I would hope the city would sue them, because after all, they had the name long before the cafe used it.

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Several years ago there was Sony versus Sony

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In Baltimore there was a small restaurant called Sony's. It was the nickname of the owner. Sony corporation sued her claiming she had no right to use the name. Unfortunately she was a small business owner who did not have the millions to waste on lawyers in what amounted to a frivolous law suit.

If she had then perhaps she could have kept the name since Sony Corporation was not in the restaurant business and so no one could possibly argue that Sony Corporation would be harmed by a single small restaurant whose name was Sony's.

I would not describe our justice system as broken. In many instances it works. But there is plenty of evidence proving it needs a variety of improvements. One is that as an institution the justice system continues to be abused by those who have the most money.

If libertarians of the nation - such as Koch brothers - actually believed in Libertarian principles they would use the billions to lobby citizens and Senators to confirm judges who will work to stop money from being a deciding factor in the court system. Courts are supposed to be neutral; however they are never neutral when one entity can intimidate another simply because the former has he money to waste on using lawyers and the legal system to intimidate just with endless interrogatories, endless court dates, etc.

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Kimball jumped the shark a

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Kimball jumped the shark a long time ago with the addition of preachy philosophical ramblings to his show. People can only soak up so many tedious panko recipes and blender reviews. Oops sorry, I meant Panko®.

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"Never heard of it"

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The man is a liar.
He's also a pompous, unprofessional, legend-in-his-own-mind, A-hole. An absolute terror to work with/for.

Phew! Felt good to get that out.

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A national business and a

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A national business and a local business don't conflict? The last time I checked, Boston was part of the nation.

Should it matter that Kimball (claims that he) never heard of the cafe? Do you have to prove that trademark infringement is intentional?

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