The owner of the Charlotte, N.C.-based Dilworth Coffee brand has filed suit against a Charlotte shop that opened earlier this year under the name Dilworth Espresso, alleging federal trademark violations.
Philipp Gerlach opened Dilworth Espresso in July in a former Dilworth Coffee retail location in the Kenilworth Commons shopping plaza while in the midst of talks with Dilworth Coffee owner Don Keen to become a Dilworth retail licensee. The licensing agreement never came to pass, and now Dilworth Coffee is arguing that Gerlach is unfairly using the Dilworth name for financial gain, according to U.S. District Court documents filed in October and recently brought to light by the Charlotte Observer.
The retail site housed Dilworth Coffee’s first store in 1989, and the chain has since expanded to three states, including four locations in Charlotte. Keen is arguing that the Dilworth Espresso signage and other promotional marketing materials are “markedly similar” to Dilworth Coffee’s, and are stealing from the Dilworth Coffee brand equity built up over the past 25 years. A promotional video cited in the lawsuit has since been removed. From the lawsuit:
Dilworth Espresso routinely uses trademarks, service marks, trade names, designs, and/or logos that are confusingly similar to or copies of the Dilworth Coffee Marks. This use is evidenced in signage, print, and electronic promotional materials, including YouTube videos.
Dilworth Coffee filed a cease-and-desist in September, which was denied in writing by Dilworth Espresso, according to the allegations. Keen is seeking injunctive relief and an undisclosed cash amount for revenue generated under the Dilworth Espresso name. The Observer reached Dilworth Espresso owner Gerlach, who says he plans to file a countersuit. He told the paper:
I don’t believe an individual can own the name of a neighborhood.