–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney

Whenever I return from a trip from California, I am always surprised at the number of people who ask whether I visited the palace of hamburgers known as In-N-Out. I’m not much of a burger fan, so my trips to that establishment are rare. I try, however, never to miss a trip to El Pollo Loco, one of my favorite restaurants on the planet.

At this point in my life, part of my love of El Pollo Loco stems from its rarity – I only get to have it when I visit my family and friends on the West Coast, and absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Imagine my surprise and delight then, when I learned that El Pollo Loco is learning to expand to Minnesota. I learned about this last week, when El Pollo Loco sued a local Minneapolis restaurant purportedly operating as El Pollo Loco De Los Santos. The lawsuit alleges that the latter restaurant continues to use the term “Loco” in its name even though El Pollo Loco requested that El Pollo Loco De Los Santos cease use of the term, or any other mark confusingly similar, in 2008.

El Pollo Loco, which translates to “the crazy chicken,” currently operates in California, Nevada, Texas, Utah and Illinois. El Pollo Loco De Los Santos denies that it has used the word “Loco” in its name since 2008. According to an article in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, however, the old name still existed on El Pollo Loco De Los Santos’ website and phone company listings when Pollo Loco filed suit.

The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure requires that “non-English wording that comprises an unregistrable component of a mark is subject to disclaimer.” El Pollo Loco owns nine live registrations incorporating EL POLLO LOCO, all of which disclaim “pollo.” Therefore, it would seem that if El Pollo Loco De Los Santos is in fact no longer using “Loco” in connection with its name, then the parties can get down to another type of important business, namely making more yummy Mexican food available to the good people of the Twin Cities.

Stay tuned, we’ll let you know if we hear anything about this case.

In the meantime, fellow Twin Citians, have you ever heard of El Pollo Loco? If you have, do you think that the Minneapolis restaurant El Pollo Loco De Los Santos/El Pollo De Los Santos is confusingly similar to El Pollo Loco?