Goats on the Roof

This is rich.  The government grants a patent for goats grazing on a roof of a business operation.  That he sues others is understandable; that he has the right to sue is inexcusable.

Scheck, Justin and Stu Woo. 2010. “Lars Johnson Has Goats on His Roof and a Stable of Lawyers to Prove It: Having Trademarked the Ungulate Look, Restaurateur Butts Heads With Imitators.” Wall Street Journal (17 September): p. A 1.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704285104575492650336813506.html?mod=WSJ_LifeStyle_Lifestyle_5

“Lars Johnson is proud of his restaurant’s Swedish-meatball sandwich and pickled herring. But the signature offering at his Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant isn’t on the menu; it’s the goats grazing on the grass-covered roof.”

“Some patrons drive from afar to eat at the restaurant and see the goats that have been going up on Al Johnson’s roof since 1973. The restaurant 14 years ago trademarked the right to put goats on a roof to attract customers to a business.”

“So when a tourist spot 750 miles away decided to deploy a rooftop-caprine population, Mr. Johnson made a federal case of it. Last year, he discovered that Tiger Mountain Market in Rabun County, Ga., had been grazing goats on its grass roof since 2007. Putting goats on the roof wasn’t illegal. The violation, Al Johnson’s alleged in a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, was that Tiger Mountain used the animals to woo business. The suit declared:

“Notwithstanding Al Johnson’s Restaurant’s prior, continuous and extensive use of the Goats on the Roof Trade Dress” — a type of trademark — “defendant Tiger Mountain Market opened a grocery store and gift shop in buildings with grass on the roofs and allows goats to climb on the roofs of its buildings.”

“Al Johnson’s is on constant lookout for other cloven-hooved intellectual-property violations.”

6 comments so far

  1. Blue on

    Protect the Trademark or lose the Trademark. If you want to play you have to pay!

  2. mark hansen on

    of course, the other restaurants could keep non-goats on their roofs.
    or they could keep goats, but not let the public see them by putting up a fence.
    if their intent was to recycle the goats for meat or use their milk, they wouldn’t have them on the roof for puposes of attracting customers and therefore not violate the trademark.
    yes, if people go to the trouble of getting a trademark, all it really gives them is standing to sue those whom they think infringe upon it.

  3. Arn Kawano on

    The reason for such litigation? The law is an ass, of course. I kid you not. Arn Kawano, Attorney at Law.

  4. mark hansen on

    while 750 miles is probably not close enough to do damage to the first business, i can see why he would sue just to protect his claim.

    “the law is a ass, a idiot, the law is a bachelor.”
    a dickens character’s reply when told anything his wife had done would be considered by the law to be by his knowledge and consent. the name i don’t remember.

  5. Sheila242424 on

    I live in the tiny town of Tiger and know for fact that some people travel far and wide to see different. And yes, this is different… I once drove to Fl. to see a cat resturant. I’m sure if I looked I could have found one closer, but I found that one and wanted to travel to see it.
    Well when people hear about your goats or ours, YES they want to see them. They get to see something totally different which is what keeps them coming to either place… Hope it hasen’t hurt your business to bad. The one here in Tiger, GA is really very nice with an old country theme behind it. Jams, jellies and knick-knacks. Cold drinks and YES, you guessed it “Goats on a Roof”.

    • mperelman on

      Jennifer, I don’t have trouble with goats on a roof, only the use of intellectual property to prevent others from doing something similar.

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