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Restaurant Wars: It's Musk v. Puck Over 'The Kitchen' Name

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on November 23, 2016 12:09 PM

To be fair, naming a restaurant "The Kitchen" doesn't sound all that original. But that's not Kimbal Musk's argument. Billionaire engineer/entrepreneur Elon Musk's billionaire restaurateur brother is suing Wolfgang Puck over a restaurant concept Musk says he started and shared with Puck in 2012.

So which eatery giant gets to use a generic word for cooking room? Let's take a look at the lawsuit.

Colorado Kitchens

According to the younger Musk's legal filing, he conceived of a farm-to-table restaurant, "dedicated to environmentally-friendly practices, including composting, wind power, eco-friendly packaging, and recycling" in 2004, and opened the first "The Kitchen" in Boulder, Colorado. Four more locations have since popped up in Denver, Fort Collins, Chicago, and Memphis, all bearing the same name.

Musk also added a cocktail lounge and restaurant called The Kitchen Upstairs in 2005, and a casual bar and restaurant called The Kitchen Next Door in 2011, both in Boulder.

A Meeting of Culinary Minds

Then in 2012, Musk met with Puck at Puck's Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills. Mr. Musk, the lawsuit claims, was "excited to be meeting who he considered an industry legend, discussed at length his THE KITCHEN-branded restaurants, including his plans for expanding both THE KITCHEN restaurants and THE KITCHEN COMMUNITY Learning Gardens to communities across the country." The pair also allegedly discussed "their respective restaurant interests, experiences and other topics," and even posed for a genial picture afterwards. Everything seemed as warm as a Dutch oven.

Cooking Trademark Violations

That was until 2015, when Puck opened a new full-service restaurant concept called The Kitchen. Puck's The Kitchen has been a rapid success, with Fox News noting plans to expand into "high-traffic airports in Washington, Grand Rapids, Mich., Los Angeles and Greeneville-Spartanburg." Musk's attorneys say he tried to resolve the conflict without litigation, but was forced to sue after Puck refused to return his calls, and the new The Kitchen has "created actual consumer confusion," between it and the old The Kitchen.

"We are disappointed that Mr. Musk has chosen to challenge our marks and applications because they include the generic term 'kitchen,'" Puck's legal team responded, "which is in widespread use by numerous other restaurants around the country." Not widespread enough, apparently.

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