Restaurant Group Sued by Competitor for Trademark Infringement

Plaintiff KCP Food U.S., Inc. filed suit on Monday in the District of Maryland against defendants International Restaurant Management Group, Inc. and five unknown plaintiffs. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant infringed on their “famous and incontestable” SARKU trademarks when they made plans to open a Sarku Hana Japanese restaurant directly across from the plaintiff’s SARKU JAPAN restaurant.

According to court documents, KCP Food is an owner of all intellectual property that is used in connection with SARKU JAPAN restaurants. SARKU JAPAN is a “national chain of Japanese-style quick service restaurants that is known for its fresh ingredients and high-quality food.” The plaintiff has used the SARKU and SARKU JAPAN trademarks since 1987 in the restaurant services industry. The term SARKU has no meaning in any language. Around 180 SARKU JAPAN and SARKU JAPAN SUSHI BAR restaurants operate across the country.

The plaintiff says they own three registered trademarks for SARKU, SARKU JAPAN SUSHI BAR, and SARKU JAPAN for both restaurant services and franchising services. Since 1987, the plaintiff asserts that they have “spent hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising and promoting” the trademarked terms, which in turn “generated hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.” Due to the plaintiff’s investment in the trademarked terms, KCP Food argues that the SARKU marks are famous by the standards of the Lanham Act due to their distinctiveness and widespread use.

The complaint explains that the defendants intend to open a restaurant (the infringing restaurant) under the name Sarku Hana at the Westfield Montgomery Mall (located in Maryland). The infringing restaurant will be directly across from one of the plaintiff’s SARKU JAPAN restaurants and in the exact location that a SARKU JAPAN SUSHI BAR existed until mid 2021.

When the infringing restaurant opens, the plaintiff contends that their restaurant and the defendant’s restaurant “will both be located and doing business in the exact same food court of the Montgomery Mall, in close proximity with each other and, based on the signage placed at the Infringing Restaurant, selling the same or very similar menu items.”

The defendants are opening the infringing restaurant with no authorization to use the SARKU marks, per the plaintiff, who says they will have no control over their operations and explains that “if there are incidents of poor customer service, poor quality food or an outbreak of food poisoning,” it is likely that the issue would be publicized and reflect poorly on the plaintiff.

The plaintiff concludes that the defendant’s infringement and misconduct, “unless restrained, will continue to cause damage and immediate irreparable harm to Sarku and to its valuable reputation and goodwill.”

The complaint cites trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution, and common law unfair competition. The plaintiff is seeking favorable judgment on all counts, temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief, monetary, enhanced, and punitive damages, a trial by jury, and any other relief deemed just by the Court.The plaintiff is represented in the litigation by Doner Law, PLC.