“Lake Effect” trademark: Buffalo eateries go to court over business names

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Can you trademark the phrase, “Lake Effect?”  A Buffalo lawsuit may answer that for two businesses. 

Owners of a Buffalo diner are suing a Buffalo ice cream business claiming it’s violating its trademark. 

Both businesses have “Lake Effect” in their name. 

Buffalo’s Lake Effect Diner is suing Lake Effect Artisan Ice Cream, a seasonal operation that has locations in Buffalo and Lockport. It says the ice cream business is violating its trademark,

The lawsuit also states there may be confusion for customers because both of these businesses are in the food service. The other point of contention is the location between the two restaurants. The diner and the Buffalo location for the ice cream shop are less than a mile from each other. 

News 4 interviewed the owners of lake effect last year about the name – they told us they chose it because “everyone in Western New York gets the phrase lake effect.”

Lake Effect Artisan Ice Cream posted a statement on Facebook about the lawsuit, calling it “an incredible shock and disappointment.”

Here is the statement in full: 

You may already have heard that we are being sued by Mr. Tucker Curtin, owner of Lake Effect Diner and The Steer restaurants, over the use of “Lake Effect” in our name. We have received so many messages of support and we want to thank everyone. We have prepared this statement to let everyone know where we stand on this issue.

Mr. Curtin’s lawsuit against us was an incredible shock and a huge disappointment. For at least 10 years, we have known Mr. Curtin through events and mutual acquaintances in the Buffalo food scene. Mr. Curtin showed no problems coexisting in the same marketplace with us. His threats against us began more than a year ago with letters from his attorney demanding money for use of the phrase “Lake Effect.” The letters subsequently stopped, and we didn’t hear from him again for almost a year. We thought that these upsetting allegations were over. That is until a few days ago.

One of the reasons this legal attack against us is such a shock is that Mr. Curtin has actually tried to conduct business with ‪Lake Effect Ice Cream‬ more than once during the past 10 years. On one occasion, he asked us to sell our ice cream to him so he could sell it in ‪Lake Effect Diner‬. At another time, he asked to include us in a local food warehouse idea that he tried to get off the ground, but he has since abandoned. Mr. Curtin also asked us if we would be interested in renting the ice cream shop attached to the now closed Dug’s Dive, which he owned, down in the Buffalo Harbor.

Our disappointment stems from having, what seemed to be, a good business relationship in which Mr. Curtin wanted to collaborate with us. This then abruptly changed last year to an adversarial one when for the first time he claimed that he had an issue with our business name and trademark, and suddenly started a legal attack against us. If he had had a problem with our company’s name and trademark, why did it take him ten years into our business relationship to tell us? We have worked hard for over 10 years to create what we see as a premier Buffalo destination for ice cream. We are dedicated to Buffalo and the people that we share our love of ice cream with every day. We will continue to be ‪Lake Effect Ice Cream‬. We are upset that Mr. Curtin wants to destroy ‪Lake Effect Ice Cream‬, but are dedicated to protecting our name.

We plan to fight Mr. Curtin and will be happy when all of this is resolved. We want our customers to know that they remain our number one priority and we will continue to serve Buffalo proudly.

Jason and Erik

Buffalo Lawyer Barry Covert says Tucker Curtin, owner of Lake Effect Diner, has the upper hand in this case. 

He said, “The Diner already had the trademark for Lake Effect Diner, and the trademark court rejected the trademark for Artisan Ice Cream saying that, because you are in the same geographical region, and have the same two first names, that could cause a lot of confusion.” 

Covert went on to say he believes there is likely going to either be a settlement or Lake Effect Ice Cream may have to give up its name. 

The Owner of Lake Effect Diner was reached over the weekend and tells us that he has no comment since it is pending litigation. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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