Boulder's original farm to table restaurant, The Kitchen, has launched a legal trademark battle against celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. The twelve year old restaurant known for its commitment to local and seasonal ingredients is challenging Puck's use of the name The Kitchen in existing and upcoming ventures.
Puck, whose empire includes flagship Spago (there is a location in Beaver Creek, CO), as well as a variety of fine and casual restaurant concepts, plus cookbooks, and kitchenware, opened The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck and The Kitchen Counter by Wolfgang Puck last year in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
According to Kimbal Musk, co-owner of The Kitchen, the confusion was immediate. "Last year, when this first started, people started calling me to ask if we were opening in Grand Rapids," he shared. "Our Chicago location is popular, we have a well-known brand there and people familiar with it thought we were expanding to Michigan."
Puck has plans for expanding this new franchise-centric venture with a location at the the Washington Dulles International Airport as well as a Los Angeles outpost. Here's the official description of this concept:
The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck specializes in the renowned chef's interpretation of global comfort fare highlighting several of his signature recipes using only the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients. As one of the newest casual concepts in the Wolfgang Puck family, The Kitchen promises a welcoming and relaxed dining environment, perfect for your next business meeting, leisurely lunch, family dinner or meal on the go.
Musk and his Colorado-born The Kitchen are not pleased. "There are multiple problems with this whole situation. One is that Wolfgang knows me, knows my family, and knows about The Kitchen. To pursue this name and prey on a still-young and up and coming group like ours is one of the saddest things I have ever seen as a businessman," Musk explained. "Another big problem is that his concept is franchise-based, a system in which controlling the local sourcing of ingredients will likely be very difficult; that affects our brand," Musk continued.
While the Kitchen launched simply as just a neighborhood spot on Boulder's Pearl Street, the restaurant has expanded in recent years with sister concept Next Door, of which there are currently three locations, and three additional locations of The Kitchen - Denver, Fort Collins, and Chicago. Musk and business partner Hugo Matheson have long eyed a California location, are underway with three Memphis ventures, and are in the process of revealing an additional outpost in one of Denver's most posh neighborhoods.
Filing a legal claim in this situation was not Musk's first choice and he even proposed that Puck's venture simply change to Wolfgang's Kitchen to avoid confusing guests. "I reached out to Wolfgang as soon as I learned of this. I called numerous times without any response. This was surprising because we had met in the past, I have shared business ideas with him, and saw him as a mentor. We were told by employees and lawyers that they intended to go forward with their name," Musk said. "I think they did not believe that we will fight and they definitely didn't believe that the public will learn about it," he added.
Musk owns three trademarks that include The Kitchen name. On behalf of his business, lawyers from local firm Holland & Hart filed a notice with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office opposing the trademark applications Puck filed for The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck and The Kitchen Counter by Wolfgang Puck. That opposition notice is below.