Two culinary celebrities, with two restaurants named “The Kitchen,” are now facing off to defend their brands.
Kimbal Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur behind Boulder-based The Kitchen and brother to Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla, filed a lawsuit Friday, on behalf of The Kitchen Cafe, against celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck.
In it, the plaintiff alleges Puck’s The Kitchen franchise, founded 11 years after Musk’s, causes confusion to loyal consumers, falsely credits Puck with the development of the original brand and demonstrates “intentional and willful… unlawful acts.”
Musk and his partners, Jen Lewin and Hugo Matheson, founded The Kitchen restaurant on Pearl Street in Boulder back in 2004. The brand was based on simple, farm-to-table fare in a comfortable environment.
In the 12 years since its founding, The Kitchen has expanded to several locations in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Chicago and Memphis and plans to expand next to locations in Cherry Creek and Stapleton. The restaurants have earned accolades from Food & Wine, Zagat and the James Beard Foundation, according to the suit.
And in 2011, The Kitchen team took the concept further, founding The Kitchen Community, a nonprofit focused on teaching children about nutrition through Learning Gardens.
In 2012, the lawsuit alleges, Puck met with Musk “to discuss their respective restaurant interests, experiences, and other topics.” The suit goes on to describe how Musk excitedly explained his brand at-length in exchange for advice from Puck, who Musk considered “an industry legend.”
It also describes the subsequent shock Musk experienced upon learning about Puck’s plan to launch his full-service restaurant concept by the same name.
The restaurants’ logos look pretty similar, too.
The Kitchen Cafe, LLC., currently holds patents on several trademarks with “The Kitchen” name, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
In September, Musk claims he made several attempts to contact Puck for a meeting to resolve the situation amicably. But the suit alleges Puck failed to respond, alter the logo and even denied the 2012 meeting ever happened.
The suit alleges unfair competition, refusal of patent applications, and trademark infringement and seeks to prevent Puck’s new line of restaurants from using “The Kitchen” branding or anything confusingly similar to it, “including but not limited to ‘THE KITCHEN by Wolfgang Puck.’”
As of Monday, the case was assigned to Judge Michael E. Hegarty of the U.S. District Court of Colorado who will oversee proceedings on January 23, 2017, at 9:45 a.m.
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