Local restaurant owner in trademark fight with NFL

Published: Apr. 30, 2014 at 10:25 PM CDT
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Phil de Gruy, owns Phil's Grills and is battling the NFL over a trademark he seeks.
Phil de Gruy, owns Phil's Grills and is battling the NFL over a trademark he seeks.

The big burgers at Phil's Grill are a definite favorite of many, and so are the New Orleans Saints.

"Pierre Thomas, PT bruiser," said Phil de Gruy, owner of the restaurants bearing his name, as he pointed to pictures of himself with current and former Saints players that dot the walls in his Harahan restaurant.

He is such a Saints fan that he started a "Burger Bowl" at his restaurants, and with the help of customers every week that the Saints play, at home or on the road, burgers are made with special ingredients and special names.

"[For] Detroit we were told they have a lot of road kill in Michigan, so we made a venison burger that we stuffed with bacon," said de Gruy.

And to ratchet up the fun, he came up with the phrase, "Lom-Burger Trophy," which appears on T-shirts and cupholders de Gruy hands out. But there's more. He applied for a trademark for the "Lom-Burger Trophy" phrase which is used at his restaurant and recently got a certificate verifying that he got what he sought, a trademark.

"It's kind of exciting to get that certificate," he said.

But like a football game, things can change in a hurry. It seems de Gruy's efforts to trademark the design of the "Lom-Burger Trophy" could be sidelined. The NFL sent his lawyer a letter raising concerns.

The letter states in part, "We are concerned that, because our marks and your client's applied-for mark are similar, it may cause the public to mistakenly believe that your client's goods and/or services are authorized or sponsored by or are somehow affiliated with the NFL or its Member Clubs. Moreover, such use could cause dilution of our famous mark, and otherwise negatively impact our rights, including through trademark infringement, unfair competition and misappropriation. Accordingly, we would like to better understand how your client intends use the PHIL'S GRILL BURGER BOWL mark…"

"It kind of takes some of the luster off, but at the same time I'm wondering how is this confusing anybody?" said de Gruy.

He has placed the trophy design on his Facebook and Twitter and asks viewers whether his design confuses them when compared to the prize of prizes in football, the Lombardi trophy.

In reality, beside the design work on the T-shirts and cup holders, de Gruy's "Lom-Burger Trophy" does not exist.

"We've actually never made the trophy, had the trophy made," he said.

He said the NFL's posture is disheartening because portions of the sales from burgers he sells go to charities.

"It's the march to the 'Lom-Burger Trophy.' It's fun and we're raising money for other people," de Gruy stated.

Sure, it's the NFL with all of its resources and clout, but de Gruy said he is not about to give up on trying to trademark his design - real trophy or not.

"I'm not going to abandon the marks, and I do have insurance and that would help battle them," he said.

Still, he admits his dealings with the NFL have not yet risen to battle status.

"It could just be them rattling their sabers and saying hey, we want you to do this, and I say no and they don't do anything about it," said de Gruy.

For now, de Gruy said his trademark applications for the actual "Lom-Burger Trophy" design, and for the "Burger Bowl" are still pending.

We contacted the NFL for comment, but so far no one has responded to the request.

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