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A lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday says Utah-based Apollo Burger restaurants knowingly infringed on a Carl's Jr. trademark and unfairly competed with the national brand, but the local chain's owner says the infringement was a misunderstanding.
"They have a trademark on what we thought was a generic name of a sandwich," said Apollo L.C. owner Michael Ziouras.
In the suit, Carl's Jr. Restaurants LLC asks the court to make Apollo Burger pay "any and all profits derived" from sales of its alleged copycat version of Carl's Jr.'s Western Bacon Cheeseburger and that the Utah company be banned from further use of Carl's Jr. trademarks.
Carl's Jr. did not return a call requesting comment late Wednesday.
The local company has changed its menu boards, Ziouras said, though it was not "fast enough for [Carl's Jr.'s] comfort level."
When he saw the lawsuit Wednesday, Ziouras "didn't even give it much attention," he said. "There's not a big fish pushing down on a little fish" in this case.
Apollo Burger has displayed an "unlawfully used mark," the lawsuit says, "that is identical and confusingly similar to one or more of Carl's Jr.'s Western Bacon Cheeseburger marks" on its website and menus. Carl's Jr. has used a trademark for its Western Bacon Cheeseburger since 1982 and spends an estimated $130 million per year on advertising. The business has built an esteemed reputation among consumers, the suit says, and the Western Bacon Cheeseburger is recognized as part of the Carl's Jr. brand.
Apollo Burger is "clearly aware" of Carl's Jr.'s valuable trademarks and has chosen to continue infringement anyway, the suit states. Carl's Jr. sent three letters to Apollo Burger about the infringement, the suit says, and while the Utah business took down the "infringing trademark from its website and promised to do so from its menu," it has "failed" in the latter.
Apollo Burger "has attempted to capitalize on Carl's Jr.'s valuable reputation and customer goodwill," the suit says, with the intent to "cause confusion, mistake or deception."
Carl's Jr. has suffered "irreparable injury to its business," including loss of revenue and damage to its reputation, according to the lawsuit, which asks that Apollo Burger "deliver and destroy all products, packaging, literature, advertising and other materials bearing the infringing marks" and report back to the court on how it fixed the alleged mistake.
Carl's Jr. asks that Apollo Burger be ordered to pay the plaintiff for profits that came from its alleged illegal use of the trademark, all damages sustained by Carl's Jr., attorney fees and any other relief the court sees fit.
Apollo Burger opened its first restaurant in 1984, according to its website, and now has 13 locations.