A brief study in how the Lion’s Tap could have had its burger and eaten it too.

I have to say, in the interest of full disclosure, I have an irrational love for the Lion’s Tap.

Ever since I worked in Eden Prairie back in the 1990s, I’ve been hooked. Fast forward the better part of a decade, put our family a cool 35 miles away in Shoreview, and we still find ourselves driving nearly an hour on special occasions to grab a burger.

That’s part of what made me so damn mad when I saw McDonald’s latest billboards. Who’s your patty? For Angus burgers? You’ve got to be kidding. Lion’s Tap is "my" patty, thank you very much! They’ve had the slogan on their tastefully tacky t-shirts for over four years.

I thought about it though. I know Lion’s Tap. But my guess is that only a small smattering of people do (perhaps 3-4% of the Twin Cities population if you were to survey). Who are they going to think came up with the slogan? And if they walked into Lion’s Tap tomorrow, who would you think was ripping off whom? That’s right. You guessed it.

It bugged me. I was a bit upset. I was ready to come to my restaurant’s defense.

Until they sued.

You can read more here, but the fact of the matter is that Lion’s Tap decided to run to the courts to remedy what is calls a trademark infringement case.

Here’s the problem, instead of coming off as the victim (which you could argue Lion’s Tap is), they come off as another coffee-in-the-crotch, show-me-the-money, lawsuit-happy opportunist. Just read some of the news stories and read some of the comments to see what I mean, here, here, and here.

Ick.

Let’s explore what Lion’s Tap "could have" done differently, and how it might have panned out.


Continue Reading Lion’s Tap Shouldn’t Have Sued. At Least Not So Soon.

My business partner just finished building his deck. In addition to the bureaucratic ordeal, that is obtaining permitting, he decided to go the extra frustrating mile and install composite deck boards versus treated wood. Fair enough. There was just one little wrinkle: Normal deck screws will "mushroom" on you unless they are pre-drilled, or worse, split the board entirely. If you’re not careful, you can go through a few boards before you figure it out. And the boards are (not surprisingly) much more expensive.

To solve the problem, builders are instructed to use special screws.SplitStop™ screws seem to be the preferred choice – they have the patents (5,516,248, 5199,839, if you’re curious) – although others "claim" to work just as well. A simple Google search returns no less than 10 competing brands, all making a seemingly fair case that their screw is the right screw for the job. But none of them have the SplitStop patent, and numerous articles by independent reviewers bemoan the confusion in the marketplace.

In addition to the "patent" confusion, throw in a dose of "trademark" confusion, and you have a veritable IP mess. Titan Metal Werks (who owns the SplitStop name and patents) also markets the DeckEase™ product. Compare that to TrapEase™ (marketed by competitor FastenMaster).

And therein lies the question: What is Titan to do? Are the others infringing? Perhaps. Are they causing confusion in the market? Certainly. Is the confusion hurting the reputation of the Titan brands? Probably. Will Titan be able to get them to stop? Doubtful.


Continue Reading The Case of the Screwed Screw Maker