As promised, here are some additional thoughts (beyond the very frank and practical non-legal advice already shared by Jason Voiovich) about Lion’s Tap’s trademark infringement case against McDonald’s over the “Who’s Your Patty?” slogan.
Here’s the multi-million dollar question: What did McDonald’s know and when did they know it? Those are questions likely to get a lot of attention in this case.
Could McDonald’s have known about Lion’s Tap’s prior use of the “Who’s Your Patty?” tagline from a drive by the single restaurant location? Not according to the exterior signage shown above.
Could McDonald’s have known about Lion’s Tap’s prior use of the “Who’s Your Patty?” tagline by checking for state or federal trademark registrations? No, Lion’s Tap didn’t register in Minnesota or attempt to federally-register the tagline until a week before filing suit, well after McDonald’s had launched its “Who’s Your Patty?” campaign.
Could McDonald’s have known about Lion’s Tap’s prior use of the “Who’s Your Patty?” tagline by conducting appropriate internet searches? Recognizing that most comprehensive trademark searches will examine the internet, here is where it might get interesting.
Just for you, I did a little poking around, and despite the fact that the current Lion’s Tap website prominently displays the “Who’s Your Patty?” tagline, The Wayback Machine (having archived updated content on Lion’s Tap’s website for these dates: November 5, 2005, December 27, 2005, June 26, 2006, January 26, 2007, January 27, 2007, December 1, 2007, and February 1, 2008), does not appear to show or document any use of the “Who’s Your Patty?” tagline as late as February 1, 2008, the last time the site apparently was crawled by The Wayback Machine. Interestingly, those archived pages show other Lion’s Tap taglines in use, such as: “Any Fresher and it Might Get Slapped,” “Sponsoring the Napkin Industry Since 1977,” “Yes, They Really Do Exist. Come See One for Yourself,” and “Lions and Burgers and Fries, Oh My! ”
So, where was the “Who’s Your Patty?” tagline being used by Lion’s Tap prior to McDonald’s adoption and use of the “Who’s Your Patty?” slogan? Was it being used in a way that McDonald’s could have found it, using reasonable precaution and diligence?
You might be interested to know that my most recent visit to the Tap — after the complaint was filed — revealed surprisingly minimal use of the “Who’s Your Patty? tagline within the restaurant interior (and none on the exterior of the restaurant). It wasn’t on wall-board menus or the on-table menus, nor on any interior signage, at least that I saw. It did appear on one wall-mounted t-shirt with a price tag on it, and one of the servers was wearing a t-shirt bearing the “Who’s Your Patty?” tagline.
Let’s not forget that Lion’s Tap is also claiming a “famous” mark in the “Who’s Your Patty?” tagline, at least “famous” in Minnesota. What do you think, does this amount of use qualify for fame?
Stay tuned, as we continue to follow this very interesting case.
As a tangentially-related side note, ironically, Patty Wood, a real estate agent from Deer Park, Texas, appears to have beaten both Lion’s Tap and McDonald’s to the punch in registering the internet domain whosyourpatty.com.