Food News

The Beefy Tale of Two Chop House Burger(s)

On Tuesday we reported that Chop House Burger opened on Main Street in Dallas. The first comment on the post asked if this spot was related to Chop House Burgers in Arlington and went on to congratulate them on expansion.

Soon after clarifying that these two places with almost identical names -- less the "s" at the end of the Dallas location -- were not related, another reader chimed in, "Guess all the other names for burger joints are taken."

The humor begs the question, why would a new restaurant open using the name of another restaurant? Particularly the Arlington one, which is going to be on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives soon.

Well, the answer involves trademark attorneys, court documents and a wee bit of finger pointing.

This all started a long time ago. Take a seat.

Chef Kenny Mills owns Chop House Burgers in Arlington. Years ago, he was the chef at Dallas Chop House, which is owned by DRG Concepts. In July 2010, he resigned after John Tesar was brought on as culinary director. Part of Tesar's mission was to work on a new burger concept for the group, and one of the names being discussed for said spot was Chop House Burger. Then, for a number of reasons, the burger joint idea got put on the back burner.

In November 2010, Mills independently opened his spot in Arlington and put a big sign out front that reads "Chop House Burgers" and people came pouring in. DRG Concepts immediately took notice. They called Mills on the name and each side subsequently hired trademark attorneys.

"In one of the last meetings I had with them before I left," Mills stated, "they said they weren't going to use the name Chop House Burgers."

Turns out that both DRG Concepts and Mills filed trademark paperwork for the name on October 7, 2010 -- the exact same day. Mills registered his name under doing business as (DBA) "Chop House Burgers" and DRG filed for a trademark on "CHB Chop House Burger" along with a specific logo.

Mills said his initial inquiry for a trademark for "Chop House Burgers" was denied because that name alone is too generic.

Since then, Mills says DRG has contacted him and asked him to change the name, a request he was unwilling to honor considering he had already filmed his DDD episode, has an established customer base and feels entitled to the name regardless.

So, then DRG opened its Dallas spot this week and on at least two different blogs people have confused the two.

"It's strictly my opinion that they should have used a different name," Mills said.

With the show scheduled to air in the next month or so, the Arlington joint will probably be flooded. (They already are -- even after recently expanding). And, with 20 miles to separate them, it doesn't seem likely that the confusion will draw a significant amount of customers away from the Arlington location.

There will probably be more back and forth between the two before it's all said and done, but hopefully neither will suffer at the benefit of the other. My strong aversion to conflict makes me wish the kids could just work it out and get on with the business of making burgers, which, in talking to them, they both seem to want to do as well.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.