Skip to comments.Billy Goat sues hamburger chain
Posted on 12/11/2003 6:37:45 AM PST by stainlessbanner
CHICAGO, Ill. - Billy Goat, the tavern beneath Michigan Avenue made famous by the "cheezborger, cheezborger" skits on "Saturday Night Live" in the late 1970s, sued Cheeburger Cheeburger Restaurants Inc. on Monday for trademark infringement.
The federal lawsuit comes as Cheeburger Cheeburger, a Florida-based chain of 32 family-style restaurants mostly in the South and East, plans to open its first location in suburban Chicago.
Raymond P. Niro Jr., a Chicago attorney representing Billy Goat, said he expects to seek a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court here to block the opening of the Glenview restaurant in order to prevent public confusion over the competing names.
Cheeburger Cheeburger has operated under that name since the mid-1980s, but it wasn't until the company decided to enter Billy Goat's "back yard" that owner Sam Sianis chose the legal route, Niro said.
John Cyril Malloy III, a Miami lawyer who represents the Florida chain, said Cheeburger Cheeburger, not Billy Goat, owns federal trademark registrations for the name.
Taking issue with the lawsuit's claims of consumer fraud, Malloy called it "nothing short of reckless" to accuse Cheeburger Cheeburger "of any kind of intentional wrongdoing."
The famous phrase comes from Sianis and Greek immigrant co-workers barking out the orders of customers during busy lunch hours.
It became immortalized when comedian John Belushi, in a series of skits on "Saturday Night Live," would tell customers hoping to order something else: "Cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger ... no Pepsi--Coke. No fries--cheeps."
Citing a Tribune story, the lawsuit said Don Novello, better known as "Father Guido Sarducci," another long-running "Saturday Night Live" character, wrote the "cheezborger, cheezborger" skit based on Billy Goat's.
In a Tribune story commemorating Billy Goat's 50th anniversary in 1984, Novello said he had regularly visited the Lower Michigan Avenue tavern in the late 1960s when he worked in Chicago as an advertising copywriter.
In the years since, Billy Goat has capitalized on the attention by selling tens of thousands of hats and T-shirts with "cheezborger, cheezborger" on them and prominently displayed the slogan on signs outside its restaurant. It has half a dozen other locations in Chicago.
"The association of cheezborger, cheezborger" with the Billy Goat is basically a Chicago landmark," the suit said.
The lawsuit alleged that a Chicago attorney, despite having an office just a few blocks from the main Billy Goat location, failed to disclose the Billy Goat's prior use of the similar slogan in seeking to register Cheeburger Cheeburger as a trademark.
The lawsuit said that in a declaration Cheeburger Cheeburger said that no one else used the trademark "either in the identical form or in such near resemblance thereto as may be likely to cause confusion."
The suit alleged that the Cheeburger Cheeburger name "is calculated to deceive the public."
Malloy said Cheeburger Cheeburger owns two federal trademark registrations for the name. The Billy Goat's application was denied, though it is appealing the decision, he said.
When Cheeburger Cheeburger learned of Billy Goat's unsuccessful trademark application, "we initiated what we hoped would be a gentlemanly dialogue," Malloy said. "Unfortunately, discussions devolved into this."
John Belushi: "No Coke. Only Pepsi!"
It is. And no sane person could EVER confuse it with a suburban chain burger joint.
Is this true? I loved that sketch because it reminded me of 100 greasy spoon lunch places in New York City. There was a time when almost every one of the greasy spoons was run by immigrant Greeks.
I thought the Billy Goat was invented by one of those media people who wrote about the Chicago Cubs and the curse. SNL has always been a NYC show.
But, in the order of things, who cares?
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