Fight over burger brands sizzles

Thursday was a big day for Chipotle Mexican Grill, as the burrito chain opened its first offshoot burger joint, Tasty Made, in Ohio.

But Boston-based Tasty Burger sought to spoil the occasion, serving up a complaint to the US Patent and Trademark Office Thursday morning over the new concept’s name and logo.

It’s the latest move in a restaurant rivalry that has quickly come to a sizzle.

Both restaurants offer typical burger-and-fries fare, including milkshakes. Tasty Burger’s menu is more extensive, with chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and salads.

It’s the branding, however, that’s at the center of this dispute.

Over the summer, Tasty Burger, which operates six restaurants between Greater Boston and Washington, D.C., sent a cease and desist letter to Chipotle. Tasty Burger said the Tasty Made name and logo—white lettering on a red background—too closely mirrored its own.


With Thursday’s complaint, Tasty Burger aims to block government approval of the Tasty Made trademarks.

The Boston chain argued Chipotle’s Tasty Made marque will lead to confusion and hurt its business. In the filing, Tasty Burger said TV news programs have mistakenly referred to Chipotle’s new chain as Tasty Burger and cited questions about the two brands on social media.

“We file this opposition to aggressively protect the Tasty Burger mark and its goodwill from any mark that causes confusion amongst our customers,” Tasty Burger chief executive David DuBois said in a statement. “This type of protection is necessary against a competitor who willfully uses a confusingly similar name and marks, despite being made aware of the confusion.”

In an interview, DuBois said Chipotle, a publicly traded company worth nearly $10 billion, was attempting to overpower his much smaller business.

“For them to argue they don’t think the two things are similar is the position of a company that can outspend the little guy,” DuBois said. “I can tell you, we’re just not going to lay down for these guys. That’s what they want us to do.”


In response, Chipotle spokeswoman Danielle Moore suggested Tasty Burger’s opposition was a publicity stunt.

“We view no confusion or conflict here,” she said. “While we did discuss Tasty Burger’s concerns with them, such discussions led us to believe that Tasty Burger is simply using this as a way to build awareness for their brand and has no valid legal basis to challenge our trademark.”

Moore said Tasty Burger’s case is weak because the Boston company’s name and logo are listed on the “supplemental” trademark register.

That means the US government did not afford it full trademark protection after it launched in 2010, because the name was seen as overly simple. “In the present case, the term TASTY BURGER is commonly used in the food industry and among consumers to describe a good tasting hamburger,” the 2011 trademark office ruling read.

In August, shortly after the Chipotle feud began, Tasty Burger applied for a place on the “principal” trademark list. If approved, the distinction would afford the company greater trademark protection.

Tasty Burger is represented by Boston law firm Prince Lobel.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.