The Game Of Chicken: Roscoe Vs. Rosscoe

(Above: Perez Klosterman is angry about possible trademark infringement)

When Rosscoe’s Chicken & Waffles opened last month, we cautioned that

trying to ride the coattails of the established LA institution doesn’t sit all that well with us. We realize the owners are just trying to maximize their business, but given the dearth of decent dining options in the area, simply providing good food and decent service would have taken care of that. Using the name Rosscoe’s (misspelled as it might be) just opens you up for increased scrutiny and ire.

Scrutiny and ire indeed! Kevin Pang reports in the Tribune today that the original Roscoe’s in LA is suing Chicago’s Rosscoe’s for trademark infringement. We took the liberty of looking up Roscoe’s trademark, and lo and behold, found it. Roscoe’s has had the name “ROSCOE’S HOUSE OF CHICKEN N WAFFLES” trademarked since 1996, and they successfully renewed it last year.

Equally relevant is Roscoe’s logo, which is also protected. The trademark has a disclaimer that states “NO CLAIM IS MADE TO THE EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO USE “CHICKEN N WAFFLES” and the illustration of waffles APART FROM THE MARK AS SHOWN.” Let’s take a look at the mark!

The chicken on the left belongs to Chicago’s Rosscoe’s, while the chicken on the right is property of LA’ Roscoe’s. There are differences between them, to be sure; um…for example, they’re looking in opposite directions. The owner of Chicago’s Rosscoe’s, Darnell Johnson, is quoted as saying:

In a court of law, in a civil case, we feel we can win 9 out of 12 jurors. If they get the whole story.

The “whole story” involves that fact that he opened another Rosscoe’s in New York in the late 90s, watched it fail, and then tried again in Chicago. Pang reports that the LA original didn’t bother to sue Rosscoe’s when it was in New York, but Chicago is a market they had considered entering. Since they only have locations in the LA area at the moment, we’re underwhelmed by that argument.

Nevertheless, this infringement suit seems to have legs, given that the “likelihood of confusion between the two is pretty high for unsuspecting Chicagoans. It’s one thing to use the name “Rosscoe,” which is a recognized variant of Roscoe (meaning “deer wood” in Old Norse) — after all, during the interwar period, one out of every two hundred male babies was named Roscoe!

But the similarity of the logos is pretty damning. At the end of the article, Johnson states he’d be fine changing the name except for the high cost of switching the signage. We’re underwhelmed by this argument also, but doing so would be a lot cheaper — and arguably less insulting — than getting shut down by government injunction.

L.A. restaurant cries fowl over Chicago eatery’s name [Tribune]
Roscoe’s House Of Chicken N Waffles [USPTO]
Trademark infringement [Wikipedia]
Roscoe - Name Meaning and Origin [Think Baby Names]

[Photos: top, the appropriately titled “Our efforts thwarted” (Chicago White Meat/flickr); middle, our own construction using Google Maps Streetview and dcfud]


The Game Of Chicken: Roscoe Vs. Rosscoe