Rooftop Goats – Trademarks on the Attack
A Swedish restaurant called Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, located in Sister Bay, Wisconsin trademarked the rooftop goats that attracted customers since it opened in 1973. The goats have been trademarked since 1996. The goats became the symbol of the restaurant in 1973 when they were given to Mr. Johnson as a gag gift by a customer.
In order to retain trademark rights once a trademark has been granted by the USPTO, a company must use the mark in commerce and also be vigilant in protecting the mark against any infringement by any businesses engaging in like goods or services. Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant maintained a vigilant watch on anyone who might be using the goat in a manner that would be likely to cause consumer confusion. The Restaurant sent several cease-and-desist letters to businesses across the nation including a Wisconsin gift shop featuring a fake goat on its roof and a Georgia grocery store and gift shop that recently faced a federal infringement lawsuit to use rooftop goats.
Trademarks are governed by both state and federal law. The goats at issue in this case were registered federally. However, if a mark is not registered on the federal level state law may apply to protect the mark in the geographical area of the good or service. For example, the Swedish Restaurant would not win a suit for infringement against a business with a dissimilar good or service like a record store or a clothing store. Additionally, if the goats were to become generic or no longer were used by consumers to identify the good or service provided by the restaurant, Al’s Restaurant could lose its trademark.