— Karen Brennan, Attorney
If you have been following the bankruptcy of the Tavern on the Green, you have most likely heard about the controversy surrounding the famous trademark.
There are a few parties claiming ownership of the Tavern on the Green trademark, recently appraised at $19 million according to the New York Times. The current licensee, the LeRoy family, has run the restaurant since 1974 when they turned a former sheep barn into a magnificent restaurant known around the world by name. Warner LeRoy licensed the space from the City of New York under the name Tavern on the Green Limited Partnership. Mr. LeRoy filed federal trademark applications for the name which registered with the PTO in 1981. The Tavern’s gross revenues in 2007 were $38 million, making it the second highest-grossing independently owned restaurant in the United States (according to Wikipedia).
Apparently, in August 2009, the LeRoy family lost a bidding war for a new 25-year contract with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to Dean J. Poll, who runs The Central Park Boathouse. However, on September 9, 2009, months before the LeRoy’s license expired, they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with 452 listed creditors leading to the current controversy over the Tavern on the Green trademark.
The second party claiming ownership of the trademark is New York City. According the another article, the City asserted ownership of the trademark at the bankruptcy proceedings claiming rights dating back to the original opening of the restaurant in 1934. Apparently, as a back-up plan the City has registered the name Tavern in the Park with New York State.
Based upon the limited facts available, it is very difficult to determine who has the better claim to ownership of the Tavern on the Green mark. The creditors certainly hope the LeRoy family prevails but, if so, will the mark survive? It will be interesting to watch.