If this sign for Burger King looks a little off, that’s because it doesn’t belong to “Burger King,” the huge fast-food chain known for the Whopper.
This is the original Burger King, in Mattoon, Ill., which opened in 1957. Its name was registered as a trademark in Illinois a couple of years later by owners Gene and Betty Hoots.
When a national company began opening a chain of Burger Kings across the U.S., the Hootses sued — and won. But only in Illinois. The case is a famous precedent in trademark law.
The ruling prevents Burger King from opening any competing store with a 20 mile radius of the original in Mattoon.
Burger King the chain has gone to some length to ignore Burger King of Mattoon. If you do a Google search for “Burger King Mattoon,” the search results show a link that goes to Burger King the corporation’s homepage, even though it is labelled with a Google map of the Mattoon location.
The Hoots seem to have a sense of humour about their role in intellectual property jurisprudence. They sell a menu item called the Hooter Burger, a play on the family name. The better-known restaurant chain that goes by the name Hooters has chosen to ignore them.
Here’s George …
And here’s Gene …
And here’s the restaurant …
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