Buc-ee’s wins trademark dispute against San Antonio competitor
The main function of trademark is to distinguish where the Goods and Service are made, so Trademark must have distinctiveness and originality. Once some similar trademarks exist in market in a long period, it will result consumers in confusion, and lose trademark’s main principle. To prevent trademarks from decreasing distinctiveness, taking active defensive measure is essential. It not only can protect Trademark owner’s gem of creativeness from damaging, but also can make customers keep these trademarks in mind, not running off.
A Houston jury has sided with Buc-ee's Ltd., a local company that operates popular gas stations and convenience stores, in a dispute over a competitor’s logo.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the jury found San Antonio-based Choke Canyon’s alligator logo violated state and federal trademark law by infringing on the pre-established logo of Buc-ee’s.
The trial’s damages phase is pending, per the Chronicle. Choke Canyon’s lead counsel declined to comment to the Chronicle regarding the verdict or the potential of filing an appeal. U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison asked the lawyers for both sides to meet regarding how to deal with the trademark violations, per the Chronicle.
When the trial kicked off last week, the Buc-ee’s legal team argued that Choke Canyon’s logo — which features an alligator wearing a hat pictured within a yellow circle — was too similar to that of Buc-ee’s despite featuring different animals, per the Chronicle. However, Choke Canyon’s lawyer asserted that any similarity was unintentional and noted the logo was created by a New Zealand designer who did not know about Buc-ee’s, per the Chronicle.
The Buc-ee’s legal team also noted several similarities between the two companies’ stores and their offerings.
The jury was tasked with evaluating the strength of Buc-ee’s logo, the logos’ and stores’ similarities, and whether Choke Canyon intended to or actually did confuse customers, per the Chronicle.
In recent years, Buc-ee’s filed similar lawsuits against other companies, as well. In 2014, Buc-ee’s sued Frio Beaver, a pizzeria and general store that opened in Concan, Texas, over its beaver signage and promotional material. The suit was dismissed when Frio agreed to change its logo later that year.
In March 2017, Buc-ee’s sued Nebraska-based Bucks Inc., which operates gas stations and convenience stores in the Omaha, Chicago and St. Louis areas under the brand Bucky’s. Bucks was expanding to Texas at the time, and Buc-ee's argued in the lawsuit that the Bucky's name is too similar to the Buc-ee's trademark name and brand. The claims against Bucks were transferred to U.S. District Court in Nebraska last August, and the case is ongoing, per court documents.
The first Buc-ee's opened in Lake Jackson in 1982, and it has since grown to 33 locations. In 2015, the brand moved part of its headquarters to Pearland.