Attorneys representing Wolfgang Puck have filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago against Kimbal Musk over the right to use the term “the kitchen.” Puck’s camp is angry over Musk’s belief that diners are confused over a regularly-used noun that appears in many restaurant names. Musk has a Boulder, Colo. restaurant called The Kitchen Café, and opened The Kitchen in 2014 in River North—hence the Chicago connection. Meanwhile Puck’s group last year opened a new concept, The Kitchen By Wolfgang Puck, in three cities: Grand Rapids, Mich., Los Angeles International Airport, and Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.
Musk is the younger brother of Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors. The younger Musk’s group objects to Puck’s use of the term and filed a federal lawsuit in November in Colorado against Wolfgang Puck Licensing. They argued Musk had a protected right to the phrase and that their trademark covers the specific term. WPL in January filed a motion to dismiss the case. Courthouse News first reported the lawsuit.
Another of Puck’s groups, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, is listed as plaintiff in this more-recent lawsuit, filed on Friday in Chicago. This lawsuit blasts Musk’s claims:
“In the restaurant field, ‘kitchen’ is a generic, highly descriptive or merely descriptive term, and lacks secondary meaning,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit goes on to list examples of River North restaurants that use “kitchen” in their names—from LYFE Kitchen to Travelle Kitchen + Bar. Musk hasn’t bothered to file lawsuits against them, Puck’s attorneys argued. Puck’s team also pointed out that neither Musk or Puck have restaurants that compete in the same geographic markets, which avoids confusion. Friday’s lawsuit filed by Puck seeks to cancel Musk’s trademarks for his Colorado restaurants.
Also worth noting: Musk runs a non-profit called The Kitchen Community. They’ve worked with Chicago Public Schools to install numerous learning gardens at schools across the city and earned a hefty grant in 2012 from city officials. Musk lists that he’s the founder of The Kitchen on his Twitter profile, and they have domain rights over the @thekitchen Twitter handle.
The Tribune spoke with an attorney who isn’t involved in the case for analysis. He compared the argument to using the words “restaurant” or “grill” in names. Puck doesn’t want to be bullied and just wants to use a common term, the attorney said.