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Monday, Sep 25, 2023

Restaurateur Turns Up Heat Over ‘The Kitchen’

A trademark dispute is pitting star chef Wolfgang Puck against restaurateur Kimbal Musk, brother of Tesla Motors Inc.’s Elon Musk. At issue are just two words: “the kitchen.”

Kimbal Musk filed a notice with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month arguing that Puck’s trademarks for two new eateries should not be approved. That’s because they include “the kitchen.” Musk’s company said they are too similar to trademarks for his restaurants that include the same term.

“Wolfgang Puck’s use of the identical ‘The Kitchen’ mark is certain to cause – and indeed already has caused – confusion in the marketplace,” Musk’s company said in the notice. Musk opened The Kitchen in Boulder, Colo., in 2004, which led to other restaurants and a nonprofit. His company now holds trademarks for the names “The Kitchen Next Door,” “The Kitchen Upstairs” and “The Kitchen Community Through Food.”

Puck is applying for trademarks for his new eateries The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck and The Kitchen Counter by Wolfgang Puck, which launched in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Wolfgang Puck Group, with corporate offices in Beverly Hills, said it is disappointed at Musk’s opposition to its trademarks.

“They include the generic term ‘kitchen,’ which is in widespread use by numerous other restaurants around the country,” the company said in a statement.

Indeed, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Register lists 7,000 applications and registrations with the term “the kitchen,” suggesting the agency isn’t restricting that phrase, said Jane Shay Wald, chair of the trademark practice at Century City law firm Irell & Manella.

For Musk to succeed, he would have to show a “likelihood of confusion” among the trademarks, she said. That can only be asserted with proof that his company is the single source of goods or services in connection with “the kitchen” – a tough battle in the dining business.  

“You’ve got trouble protecting it because you cannot have a lock on a term that’s descriptive of the service,” said Wald.

Her advice to businesses? Avoid generic words when picking a name.

Musk is also claiming that Puck took the name after a lunch at Beverly Hills restaurant Spago in 2012 at which they discussed Musk’s restaurants. Wolfgang Puck Group responded that Musk did have a Spago reservation at that time, but that its trademark choices had no connection with Musk or a discussion between the restaurateurs.  

“Mr. Puck greeted him and took a photograph with him, as Mr. Puck does with many guests who dine at his establishments,” it said.

Wald said more than 98 percent of cases brought to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board settle.

Muslim Barbie

Instagram’s latest star is #Hijarbie – a stylish Barbie who wears a hijab, the traditional Muslim head covering for women. However, she is not a creation of El Segundo toymaker Mattel Inc.

Haneefah Adam, a 24-year-old pharmacology student in Nigeria, said she came up with the idea of dressing Barbie in modest attire after realizing she had never seen Barbie wearing a hijab.

“I thought it was really important for a doll to be dressed like how I would be,” Adam told CNN.

As a Muslim fashion blogger who hopes to design modest female clothing, she took it upon herself to sew a new wardrobe for the doll, who donned a leg-revealing bathing suit for her 1959 debut. In one photo that Adam posted to Instagram, Barbie wears a floor-length red dress with a tan headscarf. In another, she sports a black-and-white checkered frock and a black headscarf.

The international media spotlight on #Hijarbie comes just after Mattel released new Barbies in diverse skin tones and body types. The closest thing to a Muslim Barbie appears to have been 1999’s Moroccan Barbie, who wears a fuchsia veil, and 2003’s Leyla from Mattel’s American Girl brand, depicting an 18th century Turkish girl.

Mattel did not respond to a request for comment.

Best Potato Balls

Yelp’s list of Best Places to Eat in 2016 put a local favorite at No. 1: Portos’s Bakery in Burbank. The eatery’s Glendale and Downey locations also claimed spots in Yelp’s top 100 recommended eateries.

The Cuban bakery’s potato balls and guava pastries are L.A. legends, but how did they top a list with offerings from New York to Seattle to Honolulu?

Yelp said it scoured millions of data points, looking at ratings and the number of reviews along with quality and popularity. Porto’s boasts four and a half out of five Yelp stars for each location.

Porto’s wasn’t the only L.A. eatery to win accolades. Morrison, an Atwater Village burger joint that also has a menu for dogs, claimed the No. 7 spot. Joe’s Falafel in Studio City followed at No. 20 and Langer’s Deli in Westlake, famous for its pastrami sandwiches, came in at No. 39.

Staff reporter Daina Beth Solomon can be reached at dsolomon@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225 ext. 263.

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