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District Brewing Co., Inc. v. CBC Restaurant, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

November 7, 2017

DISTRICT BREWING COMPANY, INC. d/b/a "Columbus Brewing Company, " Plaintiff,
v.
CBC RESTAURANT, LLC d/b/a "Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant, " Defendant.

          VASCURA MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          OPINION & ORDER

          ALGENON L. MARBLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant CBC Restaurant, LLC's ("the Restaurant" or "Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 50.) For the reasons detailed below, the Restaurant's motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         In 1988, Plaintiff District Brewing Company ("the Brewery") was established by Jeff Edwards. (Compl., Doc. 1, ¶7.) The Brewery first used and registered the trade name "Columbus Brewing Company" one year later, and has continued to renew diligently its trade name. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) The Brewery entered into a lease for the building located at the intersection of Short Street and Liberty Street in Columbus's Brewery District Neighborhood in 1995. (See Id. ¶ 13.) The building was owned by TOW, Ltd., whose part owner and managing member was also Edwards. (See id.) By 1997, Edwards was the sole owner of the Brewery. (See Op. & Order on Pl.'s Mot. Prelim. Inj., Doc. 33, at 2.)

         In 1997, the Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant opened as a collaborative venture between Edwards and restauranteur Cameron Mitchell. (Id.) Because Edwards and Mitchell had always planned for the Brewery and Restaurant to work together under the same roof, Edwards leased the front portion of the Brewery's building to Mitchell's restaurant company (Defendant's predecessor-in-interest). (See id.) Under the lease, Mitchell's restaurant company had the right to use the name "the Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant"-and was in fact required to do so. (Id.) The lease also required the restaurant to purchase a minimum amount of the Brewery's beer to sell, and allowed it to keep the existing "Columbus Brewing Company" sign on the building. (Id.) In 2007, Defendant purchased the restaurant from Mitchell's company, and the original lease remains in effect. (Id.)

         Since its opening in 1997, the Restaurant has openly used the "Columbus Brewing Company" name, marks, and logo to advertise the Restaurant and the Brewery jointly. (Id. at 3.) And the Restaurant had only the Brewery's beers on tap for years. (Id.) In fact, during a two-year period (2007-2009) when die Brewery struggled financially, die Restaurant was its biggest customer. (Id.)

         In 2006, nearly a decade after die Restaurant opened, then-Vice President of die Brewery, Eric Bean, objected to the Restaurant's use of die Brewery's marks. (See id.) This was die first time anyone affiliated with die Brewery objected to the Restaurant's use of its marks. (Id.) After Bean's objection, the Restaurant simply informed him that it would continue to use the marks, and no one objected to this use for nine more years. (Id.) Indeed, during those nine years, die parties continued to market themselves as a joint venture, including by holding monthly "Hop Odyssey" events-where Bean came to die Restaurant and introduced die Brewery's new beers to diners-and "tap parties" for die Brewery's beers at the Restaurant. (See id.)

         By 2015, Bean assumed full ownership of the Brewery, which had grown substantially since 2009. (See Doc. 1 ¶ 38.) To account for this growth, the Brewery planned to open a larger brewing facility, to which it located in 2016. (See id.) Shortly before relocating, the Brewery sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Restaurant, demanding that the Restaurant stop its use of the "Columbus Brewing Company" name, marks, and logo. (Id. ¶ 18, Ex. F.)

         After the Brewery filed this lawsuit and the Court denied its motion for preliminary injunction (discussed below), the Restaurant claims that it "embarked on a campaign to systematically eliminate each and every use of the 'Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant' name, mark, and logo used throughout its business." (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Doc. 50, at 8.) Specifically, the Restaurant claims it has done all of the following, with the help of a marketing firm it hired, between July 2016 and January 2017:

• Altogether eliminated the use of the name "The Columbus Brewing Company Restaurant";
• Created a new logo using its "CBC Restaurant" tradename in a different color, font, shape, and size, as compared to its previous logo;
• Changed its domain name from columbusbrewingco.com to dinecbccolumbus.com;
• Updated its website to reflect its new marks, logo, and name;
• Changed all menus, lobby posters, and table toppers to reflect new marks, logo, and name;
• Purchased new uniforms and retail items bearing new marks, logo, and name;
• Replaced all barware and growlers with those bearing new marks, logo, and name;
• Updated social media accounts (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) to new handles and new marks, logo, and name; • Removed all photos and signage of Brewery inside the Restaurant;
• Painted the inside of the Restaurant and removed the large mural in the bar area which bore the ...

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