Can my competitor Japanese restaurant sue me for having the same sushi rolls name as theirs?

I just recently opened a sushi restaurant and some of the names on my menu might coincidently match the ones they have at my competitors restaurant but names for sushi rolls are pretty common and might be the same all over the US. Can they really sue me?

Asked on September 4, 2015 under Business Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

IF their product name is trademarked, then they could sue you for trademark infringement but the trademark must be a valid one, which means, among other things, that it can't be purely generic can't be purely descriptive and can't be a name that many others in the industry are also using. For example, obviously "tekka" roll cannot be trademarked, nor could "spicy tuna," since those are descriptive and/or generic terms, as well as being in essentially universal use. "Dragon roll" probably cannot be trademarked, since I've seen that in many restaurants. But say they came up with and trademarked the "Kraken" roll--since that is not generic or descriptive and is likely unique to them I've never seen it before, and I eat sushi fairly often, then they could keep you from using the name, say "Green Kraken roll," since that would be confusingly similar to a trademarked name.


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