DC Comics Goes Batty, Fights BBQ Restaurant Over Trademark

Had the owner’s of BATS BBQ in Rock Hill, SC, not attempted to file a trademark application for their logo (see image to the left), they probably wouldn’t have drawn the attention of lawyers for DC Comics, who say the bat icon used in the logo is a little too similar to one of the many Batman logos they have already trademarked.

BATS is a (sort of) acronym for Beau And TraviS’ restaurant, so it only seems appropriate that the BBQ joint would have a flying rodent in its logo.

But when they applied to register their trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last spring, they ended up receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the legal superheros at DC Comics.

“Our bat is not their bat,” explains the father of one of eatery’s owners. He says the logo was designed on the family’s home computer.

Rather than simply go with a different bat image, the folks at BATS have opted to put up a fight.

“Sometimes you just can’t walk away,” said the family patriarch. “Sometimes you just have to do it.”

Their lawyer for the restaurant believes they have a chance to win their appeal because the restaurant does not have a movie or comic-book theme.

What do you think? Should the restaurant fight the cease-and-desist or should they just change their logo?

Bats BBQ fights Batman maker over trademark rights [HeraldOnline.com]

Thanks to Robert for the tip!

Comments

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  1. digital0verdose says:

    Doesn’t matter when or where a logo was created, if it is submitted for trademark after another, similar logo has already been trademarked you are SOL.

    If the BBQ is really what standout with that place, a relatively simple redesign of the logo is not going to hurt business.

    • nova3930 says:

      Trademark is a lot knottier than that. There are a lot of standards for consumer confusion and others that have to be met for there to be trademark infringement.

      If someone starts Macs Bulldozers with a logo that looks a lot like the Micky Ds arch, there’s not necessarily going to be trademark infringement because people aren’t likely to walk into a bulldozer store and try to order a Big Mac and fries….

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Yeah, they should just cave to a bunch of corporate lawyer bloodsuckers.

    • ARP says:

      There are different TM use classes that allow similar names to be used if they are in completely different markets (e.g. having a software product called “Vision” and having a toilet bowl cleaner with the same name will probably be allowed. Logos are a bit more difficult, but is still possible.

    • Griking says:

      So DC has a license that pretty much give them exclusive rights to the picture of a bat in a logo?

  2. Bativac says:

    Get the hell out of here. Batman would care less if somebody is using a bat to advertise their barbecue. As long as they aren’t serving the Joker.

  3. backinpgh says:

    Ugh. You can hardly call that a logo…

  4. DanRydell says:

    Did they design the logo in Mike Rowe Soft Paint?

  5. Anto103 says:

    Gonna have to side with DC on this one, the bat logo does make me think of Batman.

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      *Any* Bat drawing makes me think of Batman.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      yeah – imagine that – it looks like a bat!

    • dg says:

      Me too. The first thing I saw was the bat logo, and I though of Batman. Sorry BBQ guys – the logo is just too damn similar and there is a likelihood of confusion so you lose… change it and move on.

  6. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    They’re getting damned rediculous obout the trademark lawsuits. Pillsbury made “The DoughGirl” change their name. Really, so they have a trademark on anything with the word “Dough” in it?

  7. err says:

    They obviously feel like throwing away some cash. The lawyer(s) must be happy, they get paid either way.

  8. pantheonoutcast says:

    Is Bacardi, in turn, going to turn around and sue DC Comics? Because I know when I want a delicious Mojito, I don’t want to accidentally end up with a graphic novel featuring the exploits of a costumed vigilante.

    • chiieddy says:

      The Bacardi bat doesn’t remind me of the DC Batman bat logo. It’s thinner and the wing points are more pronounced, plus the bone structure is visible. The bat in the logo above looks like the Batman bat.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        And therefore, one would make the assumption that it’s at this precise location that Bruce Wayne buys his pulled pork po’ boys and hush puppies.

  9. NashuaConsumerist says:

    I hate to say it, but that logo’d bat does look very much like the one of the many batman images used by DC. I’d normaily jump on the “DOWN WITH MONTSTER” type anti-trademark band wagon, but if it was really easly created on a home computer if could be easily redesigned. Hell, use the money you’d put in a lawyer’s pocket and get a professional logo, even if it’s some design student. Let’s face it, that logo isn’t anything that would make me look twice and stop for BBQ…

  10. CaptCynic says:

    Where’s the option for “This is a terrible logo and should be changed, regardless of DC comics”?

  11. midtower says:

    If it weren’t DC Comics suing them, Bacardi would probably have a go with a lawsuit.

  12. mattarse says:

    Doesn’t the trademark only apply if it is in the same industry?

    • Billy says:

      Not always. Some trademarks take on “acquired distinctiveness”, or “secondary meaning”.

      The crux of the secondary meaning doctrine is that the mark comes to identify not only the goods but the source of those goods. To establish secondary meaning, it must be shown that the primary significance of the term in the minds of the consuming public is not the product but the producer (citations omitted).

      Ralston Purina Co. v. Thomas J. Lipton, Inc., 341 F. Supp. 129, 133, 173 USPQ 820, 823 (S.D.N.Y. 1972).

      So, the product category may be irrelevant if the brand is strong enough.

    • diasdiem says:

      See also the asshats at Monster.

  13. Bativac says:

    I want to amend my earlier statement. This looks like the Batman Begins logo, only the tops of the wings have been curved, and the sides of the head pulled out a little. Maybe they actually have a case after all.

    I think a cartoon drawing of a bat’s head would work better anyway. I hereby offer my services as an illustrator.

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      I second the idea of a cute cartoon bat for the logo/mascot. Not just the head, but kind of a whole little guy in different poses pointing out the menu items/ads. I hereby withdraw from consideration as an illustrator.

  14. full.tang.halo says:

    Looks like a bat cutout you could buy around Halloween at any store in every October. Doesn’t come close to any current or former batman logo that I could find. Font and style of the words is also dis-similar to the comic.

    • Anonymously says:

      Exactly. It’s exactly like any bat I’ve drawn:
      http://www.google.com/images?q=bat halloween cut out

    • Conformist138 says:

      Thank you!
      Of course people see a wings-extended silhouette of a bat and think “It MUST be Batman!” but I googled “batman logo” and sifted through a few pages of images, and this isn’t a direct lift. it may be similar, but only in the way that all bats have the same general shape.

      Sorry, DC, but you don’t own the entire concept of a bat silhouette. And that name/logo/font doesn’t make me think of DC or Batman. I do, however, want a pulled pork sandwich.

  15. MrEvil says:

    Do they have Bats in Rock Hill South Carolina? When I first saw the logo I thought this restaurant was here in Austin seeing as how Austin is home to one of the largest urban-dwelling bat colonies in the world.

  16. brokentrinkets says:

    This reminds me of an old story about why Batman went from no oval around his symbol (see Bob Kane’s original Detective Comics #27) to a yellow oval around it in the 60s.

    Way back in the 60s, DC Comics tried to trademark the Bat-symbol and was promptly told by the Trademark Office that you cannot trademark something that occurs in nature. DC Comics thougth about it and returned to the Trademark Office and asked, “What about a bat inside of a yellow oval?”

    It might be an urban legend (Wikipedia says it was a design decision to revitalize the character — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batman), but it makes you think….

  17. Jfielder says:

    Yes, I do want BBQ right now.
    I have to constantly punish myself by driving right past Slow’s in Detroit several times a week, but can never stop for some delicious bbq. I always have somewhere I need to be. The delicious smokey meaty smell covers the whole block, and blows down onto the highway too….

  18. chiieddy says:

    I hate to say it, but my first thought was, hey that bat looks like the Batman logo.

  19. ogremustcrush says:

    Considering that the first thing I thought when I saw the logo, before I even read the story or headline was that there is some sort of Batman BBQ joint now, I think this may cross the line for trademark infringement. With logo’s its a bit different than names anyway.

  20. Aesteval says:

    Honestly? I immediately thought of Batman when I saw the logo. There is a distinct similarity and I can’t really blame DC for pursuing this so long as it simply is just because of the individual bat image in use.

  21. glennski says:

    I think it being a black silhouette with no inside lines depicting the bat itself makes it way too similar. DC should win this, that is the batman logo to pretty much anyone that looks at it. If you can then sell shirts or other merchandise with this logo, I dont’ think it should matter what the theme of the restaurant is like their lawyer contends. You would be pretty much buying a batman BBQ shirt, as that is how it would appear to most casual observors.

    • Conformist138 says:

      I keep wondering why so many people are cool with “Yeah, DC does own the rights to any and every black silhouette of a bat.”

      I think that’s going a little far. Sure, people do sort of think of Batman, but that’s just people reacting to any bat silhouette, since this really doesn’t look like a batman logo at all.

      Consumerist- you should have tossed up a nice little graphic showing the various logos DC uses for batman, I bet this one isn’t any closer of a match than the generic paper bats seen in party stores.

  22. Destron says:

    It looks kinda similar to this one:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/veganstraightedge/2257283078/

    but I don’t think enough so to warrant a lawsuit. That said, many people don’t even know what the original Batman logo even looks like, so who cares.

  23. cmdr.sass says:

    They might win here, but it will cost them a lot of dough. The least expensive case I was involved with cost about $100,000, something a mom and pop restaurant probably can’t afford.

  24. Anonymously says:

    All of Batman’s logos are different from this bat in one important way – they have points on the top of the wings. This logo’s wings are flat on the top.

    batman icon’s mutation (youtube video)

    • parliboy says:

      THIS.

      While the DC logo has changed over the years, there are specific portions of it that are fairly consistent through history, and have made it iconic. This logo does not infringe on that.

      That said, if they want to get through this, I recommend adding some facial features. Just cut out a couple of eye slits and nose holes.

      • Billy says:

        Not this.

        You guys are asking the wrong question. A judge will balance the factors which answer the question “does the logo cause a likelihood of confusion that consumers will believe the products or services originated from the trademark owner.”

        It’s up to the judge, but the fact that one logo has points and the other doesn’t isn’t going to weigh that much.

        • Anonymously says:

          Pure speculation: I’m willing to bet DC has a design guideline that states what features a batman logo must has, and this logo wouldn’t qualify.

          • Billy says:

            What does it matter what design guideline DC has (BTW, that’s speculation on your part)? All that matters is similarity between the 2 designs.

            To go even further: let’s just assume that there IS such a design guideline and the guideline says that the logo can never be presented in anything but black. By your logic, anybody could come along, copy and use the logo as long as it’s in red. That frustrates the purpose of trademark.

            • Anonymously says:

              1) I said it was speculation.
              2) Color and shape aren’t really the same thing. Multiple companies can have red logos if they are different shapes. This logo isn’t the same shape as any batman logo. *One* reason is that doesn’t have points on the top of the wings.
              3) There are only so many ways to have a line drawing of a bat and DC shouldn’t be able to own everything that looks like a bat.

          • Billy says:

            Unless you were saying that it’s pure speculation about what factors a judge would be balancing. It’s not speculation. There’s plenty of caselaw about it.

      • Damocles57 says:

        What’s “fairly consistent” about the bat image is that DC is trying to make people think of a BAT. There are only so many ways to enhance a basic bat image before it stops looking like a bat.

  25. MrsLopsided says:

    From Chuck E Cheese to Bats.
    Why do restaurants want their establishments represented by health code vermin?

  26. chucklebuck says:

    They should change the logo to a joker playing card with the joker holding a bat skewered onto a BBQ fork.

  27. Osagasu says:

    This is local to me. Decent food, but I would have never given it a second look if it wasn’t for the similarities there.

  28. diasdiem says:

    They can afford to hire a lawyer, but not a professional graphic designer?

  29. HogwartsProfessor says:

    If you made a logo that is too similar to another registered logo (entirely possible if you just did it at home instead of having it professionally done), then you have to change it. They’re not going to win here. It does look too much like a Batman thing.

    That one’s not very exciting anyway. Something more like a real bat probably wouldn’t get them into any trouble, and it could be a mascot.

  30. diasdiem says:

    They could have just used baseball bats and had a baseball theme. Because honestly, I’m not sure a flying rabies vector is a good logo for a restaurant.

  31. diasdiem says:

    Designed by a 12-year-old with a love of Batman and Jurassic Park, apparently.

  32. DariusC says:

    Reppin SC! Woo!

    Seriously though, just change the logo… its ugly anyways and the money for lawyers is worth more than your time to make a new one (or even pay someone to make a new one…. please do this).

  33. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    I don’t get how they think they have a leg to stand on…that bat is *very* similar to the DC trademarked image. You can’t do that. Case closed.

  34. SilentAgenger says:

    I smell a ploy. Two things are happening right now as a result of this: (1) tons of free publicity/advertising, and (2) tons of (hopefully better) logo ideas being submitted by graphic artists from everywhere.

  35. Damocles57 says:

    I think they should hire Adam West as their spokesperson. He can assume the persona of an old hippie and say things like, “Who has the best BBQ in town? Is this a riddle? It’s Bats, man!” or “Who will save our little town from bland BBQ? Are you joking? It’s Bats, man!”

    Then they should name all their sauces as follows:

    Wow! = mild
    Zing! = a little hot
    Zap! = getting hotter
    Wham! = hurts my mouth a little
    Ker-pow! = hurts my mouth a lot
    Kaboom! = I used to be able to feel my mouth

    Then I would have a Grand Opening and hire one of those large portable flood lights to shine high in the sky. My initial pricing would be $3.01, $4.01, $5.01, etc. My ad messages would be to “Report to Bats and get your Penny’s worth” during our grand opening.

  36. beeship says:

    I went to high school with the owner of this restaurant. Crazy. I never thought of batman when I saw their logo but maybe that’s just me. They are getting a lot of publicity over this. I wonder if business will increase?

  37. rocketslide says:

    It totally looks like Batman, and it totally looks like it was done on a home computer by someone without any graphic design experience. This is why you hire professionals.

  38. UnicornMaster says:

    What I opened a place called Mickey’s diner and had little mouse ears on it?

  39. dush says:

    Batman gave away his logo to Commissioner Gordon and the City of Gotham. Why can’t he do the same for a hard working restauraneaur?

  40. bben says:

    Their ploy is working! I live in Rock Hill and had never heard of Bats BBQ. I have now and will definitely go there this weekend. I googled it and It’s just 3 miles from my home.

    On a side note, The logo looks nothing like any batman logo I have seen – similar yes, but definitely different. Just how many ways can you draw the outline of a bat?

  41. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Beside in the maternity ward…

    Lawyer: “Mrs. Jones we represent a major corporate conglomerate and would like you to know you can not name your new baby “Wendy”. If you persist with this we will see you in court.”

    Get over it Corporate Overlords because you do not own every image and letter combination that may come close to your precious trademarks.

    How silly does this stuff have to get before we, the people, have had enough?

  42. SoFlaSnowMan says:

    “…the BBQ joint would have a flying rodent in its logo.”

    Don’t mean to be picky, but bats are not rodents.

  43. Tom Foolery says:

    I don’t know about the bat, but the barbecue is supposed to be pretty good.

  44. HammRadio says:

    normally i would side with the bbq place. but i mean that’s ridiculous.

    Why not just put Mickey Mouse ears on their as well.

  45. sopmodm14 says:

    i’d like to see their trademarked images in comparison

    let consumerist readers decide

  46. VouxCroux says:

    I get the BBQ joint’s point, but it’s just far too close to the BATMAN logo.

  47. Frank says:

    Lord Bravery Smoked Meats and Fishes, you say?

  48. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    As much as I’m not the type to agree with big mega-corp (Time Warner, AFAIK, owns DC comics), that bat logo does have more than a passing resemblance to the Batman logos we’ve all seen for the past 50-odd years. As most people are aware, one who owns a trademark must use it and/or defend it or lose it, so DC Comics is not in the wrong here, and I’m guessing they’ve got a few lawyers on staff wanting to be sure they’re not caught in the latest downsizing over at TW.

  49. SWBLOOPERS says:

    My first thought was “If they’re trying to copy the Batman logo they failed…”