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Mi Cocina Slaps Mi Cocina Hondurena in Garland With a Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

Business Forecast: Nothing but grey skies for this Honduran restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Marc Lee.)

Teresa “Gubbshoe” Gubbins filed a report yesterday on CultureMap. In the post, she shines a bright light on Mi Cocina, the powerful Tex-Mex restaurant that will probably be the first chain restaurant to open a kiosk in the White House. (That is pure speculation on my part. But, I wouldn’t rule it out if the GOP takes control.) Mi Cocina, the behemoth, filed a lawsuit on September 7 in the Texas Northern District Court against Martin E. Solis-Martinez, owner of Mi Cocina Hondurena in Garland, for trademark infringement. (The same company also prohibited Mi Cocina founder Mico Rodriquez from using his name, which MCrowd also owns, on or in his new restaurant, Mr. Mesero. And though that seems petty, Mico admits he screwed that up.)

Oh, it gets better.

Gubbins does a kick-sass job of comparing the neighborhoods, food, service, and atmosphere of the two restaurants. She illustrates how impossible it is to expect a Mambo Taxi when you open the door of this tiny, Honduran restaurant. They don’t even sell alcohol. CultureMap spares no expense. They assigned photographer Marc Lee to present a slideshow of the “crime scene.”  Gubbshoe types:

Menu: Mi Cocina has its signature sunset fajitas, smothered in chili sauce with onions and spicy queso, for $12.25, and beef nachos served on tortilla rounds and topped with gooey yellow cheese, guacamole, pico and jalapeños for $11.25.Mi Cocina Hondurena has baleadas, a signature Honduran dish with mashed beans and cheese stuffed into a folded tortilla (which the restaurant makes onsite) for $1.99 to $4.50. Hondurena’s most exotic specialty, $11.99 snail soup, could serve the whole family.

I understand the concept of trademark infringement and realize it is important and necessary in some cases. I felt bad for The Place at Perry’s when they had to change their name when Perry’s Steakhouse moved to Dallas. It’s still confusing. However, this Honduran spot doesn’t look like it’s a threat to Mi Cocina and it would be an act of kindness if the powerful queso pushers would allow them to continue their business. Queso? Did I just say queso? Oh that’s a rant for another time.

UPPITY DATE (10/14/12, 2:45 p.m.): I just got off the phone with M Crowd czar Ray Washburne. “If we let one person use the name, then there’ll be no way to stop the others,” Washburne said. “We spend a lot of money every year defending our brand. We’re going into business in other states. If I let one guy use our name, who’s to stop ‘Mi Cocina El Salvador or Mi Cocina Guatemala’? You just can’t allow anybody to do it, because then you’ll have to let everybody do it.”

 

33 comments on “Mi Cocina Slaps Mi Cocina Hondurena in Garland With a Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

  1. There’s absolutely no potential for brand confusion here and “My Honduran Kitchen” poses no competitive threat to M Crowd’s slick Tex-Mex chain. M Crowd should weigh whatever they stand to gain by suing a small family-owned business with what they stand to lose by having this kind of thuggish behavior publicized on D and CultureMap.

  2. Shame on Mi Cocina Hondurena who serve all those douchebags trotting in with their fancy monogrammed Dickie’s overalls and specialty Sears work boots, when all Mi Cocina is trying to do is just provide a meal to hard working people simply trying to make the next payment on their Bentley out in the parking lot.

  3. Marc Lee’s photos put me right at the crime scene! The clouds in the exterior shots convey a feeling of doom, and the fluorescent lighting of the interior exposes a clean and simple restaurant that would be right at home in Tegucigalpa, And that’s a really nice Honda. Is it an EX or an EX-L? Does anybody know if it’s for sale? I’d love to have that car.

    Anyway, I’d eat here in a heartbeat. Mi Cocina is way out of line.

  4. Let’s see so Mi Cocina is trying to defect a trademark were the name is my kitchen. Maybe I will trademark my house or my head. I am sorry but this is a common language statement, I don’t see how a trademark is going to stand. That being said the big mean ugly corporation is likely going to kill the small restaurant with legal fees. Nobody wins but the lawyers.

  5. Rules are rules and if Mi Cocina is trademarked then they shouldn’t be allowed to use it….

  6. If MiCocina owns the trademark then they have every right to defend it. And I don’t think MiCocina is a “big behemoth” or a “big mean ugly corporation.” It is a family owned business with about 15-20 restaurants mostly in North Texas. Not this garland restaurant is any less important, but the law is the law and everyone has to obey it.

  7. Be Fair, I never said Mi Cocina was a big ugly corporation, but in relation to Mi Cocina Hondurena it is a large business. It’s a shame that the owner of Mi Cocina Hondurena didn’t run an easy name check at the county courthouse or he would have learned the easy way. This happens to small restaurants all of the time. They pick a name, open for business, and have to change it because they’ve inadvertently chosen the trademarked name of another restaurant. And yes I know Mi Cocina is a family-run business but they are opening in Atlanta, Washington, and in other states. We’ve sent legal documents to other professional blogs who operate as SideDish. We trademarked the name. When I spoke with Washburne I asked, “Why can’t you just let these little guys do their thing.” He response was obvious: if they let these guys do it then how do they stop the next….It’s sad, but it’s a reality of doing business. Hopefully the owners will just cut spend their cash on a new sign and we will all go over and celebrate their food.

  8. Hold on a moment…just because MCrowd files a lawsuit claiming trademark infringement doesn’t mean they’re right. That’s for the court to decide. More likely, though, the Honduran restaurant will just change its name because the case is too expensive to litigate.

  9. Somebody let these poor folks know to duct tape a Y over the I in Mi and then tell Ray Washburne to stick his overpriced, commoditized enchiladas up his arse. By the way, they perhaps might want to check out the other restaurants that just call themselves “Mi Cocina” before picking on this one, which clearly has taken steps to distinguish itself from Mr. Washburne’s establishments.

  10. I’d kind of enjoy seeing Washburne go after Francis Mallman for using “Mi Cocina Argentina.”

  11. Kirk,the restaurant you linked to will get slapped if Mi Cocina goes to PA. However trademark infringement in this case is only applicable to other restaurants with the same name, not other businesses or blogs. See Delta Airlines and Delta Faucets. They don’t compete. Alas, Mallman’s book is safe.

  12. “it would be an act of kindness if the powerful queso pushers would allow them to continue their business. ”

    No one is stopping anyone from continuing their business. They are free to continue their business, just under another name. Perhaps they will make an extremely small investment and have a lawyer [not a bad word!] commission a trademark search this time.

  13. The Mi Cocina statement is correct. If you allow use by one person, then legally you are pretty much giving up the right to your trademark. Trademark is pretty much all or nothing regardless of the likelihood of anyone confusing the two businesses. Which is why the IOC is so zealous in their pursuit of anyone using “Olympic”. Google “ravelympics” for an interesting example.

  14. Bottom line is the food quality and service have suffered tremendously since changes in operations and expansion began to happen at Mi Cocina (I hope I won’t receive a cease and desist letter for typing their friggin’ name). Have you been lately? Tell me it’s as good or better as it was six or seven years ago – no way. The culture and soul was lost when Mico left. Their new locations open to great business that quickly and dramatically wains. There is a Mi Cocina in Colorado. Used to be one in NYC. What exactly are they protecting? Mico’s tax problems and divorce allowed “the partners” to totally take advantage of him when they bought him out. Their initial investment in Mico was far less than $100K each. They have made MILLIONS off his creations, yet still found a way to screw him in the end. Ask Chris Ward how this works… The Mambo’s have less alcohol, yet are more expensive. The cheese isn’t aged any longer. The chips are fried and stuck together. Huge chunks of tomato in the salsa and avocado in the guacamole. The service is barely palatable at best. It’s a shame what has happened to the “brand”. Literally being watered down by every new store opening (flop).

  15. This is all David and Goliath political bullshit. The Honduran “David” should have known better, and should have been more diligent in their research, which was prolly nil. And what was that parenthetical quip about opening up a kiosk “if the Republicans take control of the White House”?
    Just what the hell is that supposed to mean? You Libs have something against successful business.
    Can’t you leave your class warfare nonsense out of it?

  16. CalluOnTHat, yes I believe I said they should have run the name through country records. The quip comes from the fact that two of the three owners of Mi Cocina are Republicans. And I guess it was a poor attempt at levity. Mi Cocina is opening in Washington DC in the spring and they have plans to open several more in the area.

  17. Nancy – full disclosure for your readers – you seriously dated one of the three owners of Mi Cocina (M Crowd) is that not correct?

  18. Mi Cocina is a family owned restaurant but have three owners. Are the Washburnes and McNutts related to each other and owner number 3? Mi Cocina is as much of a family business as Cargill.

    I doubt if Messrs McNutt and Ray spend a lot of on site heat of the kitchen time anymore. These guys are investors, which is good, but they do not run what one considers to be a family business.

    If the owners of Mi Cocina had a fraction of empathy compared their capital they would sell a nonexclusive license to the Honduran restaurant for a dollar. I know where I an having lunch this week and it will be at a non-MCorp Mi Cocina.

  19. Does a place like Burger House own the trademark to Burger House? In that case, any place called (Name)’s Burger House (i.e. Jim’s/Bob’s/Ann’s) would be infringing on a trademark. That would be insane, as is this. If the Garland restaurant has to change its name, I recommend Tu Cocina Hondurena just to mess with them a little.

  20. Had lunch at the Honduran Mi Cocino, and their Cocina makes much better comida than the chain Mi Cocina. The service, the responsibility of a single server, also surpassed the well heeled Cocina. I suggest that Mr. Washburne and his partners give it a try.

    If you do, be sure someone orders the seafood soup. It has Thai style qualities ( coconut milk?) that make the broth delicious. It is filled with shrimp, mussel, a blue crab, fish, and Krab. The flour and corn tortillas are hand made. The flour are less flaky than I prefer but the corn tortillas are a thick style not often served here. They were excellent.

    Next visit I will give them the Mi Cocino quality service test and order simply rice, beans and avocado. I tried this at Mi Cocino (W. Village) one night and the server absolutely refused to take the order as it was not on the menu. It was like a scene from Five Easy Pieces. After several minutes of haggling one companion offered me her beans from her Combo, and another offered her rice. I can’t remember where the avocado came from, but it arrived.

    Despite this place being a favorite of many of my friends, I insistently veto Mi Cocino (the gabacho one) and we find select another Tex Mex destination.

    Messrs Washburne and McNutt, talk to your lawyer. There is a solution other than forcing this very small, modest restaurant to choose another name, run a TM check, change their sign and menu, and get all of this on the Web. Perhaps your kindness will be rewarded with valuable cooking tips and recipes, as they server cj better food.

  21. Ah ha! So this is about Nancy hating her ex-boyfriend and trying to insult Republicans. And who says journalism is dead? Nancy, it’s ok to leave the 10th grade now!

  22. tempest in a teapot. mi cocina hondurena failed to due diligence on their name. MiCocina has a legal obligation to defende their trademark ie property. does it look like David v Goliath sure it does, but so what. maybe MiCocina could gain some good will by offering to help the Hondurans with getting a new sign and name

  23. They aren’t calling themselves Mi Cocina, they call themselves Mi Cocina Hondurena. So no one can have Mi Cocina anywhere in their name? So if I trademark My Kitchen, a restaurant called My Polish Kitchen would be a trademark violation? I’m not sure that flies at all. If it is loser pays, I bet Mi Cocina does not take that bet. So why bust the chops of some mom and pop place to find out? Simply obsurd. So this gives me a good opportunity to say I think Mi Cocina is an over priced, loud and obnoxious place that sells average food, (that is getting worse each time I go), at best. And they are a bunch of jerks to mess with these people. I can’t wait to try Mi Cocina Hondurena. Maybe LULAC can do something useful for once in their life and go to the plate and help these people defend their business. Don’t count on it.

  24. I’ll never go to Mi Cocina again, EVER! What kind of people would do something like this? I’m not going to give them my money so they can pay their (I bet) expensive lawyers to sue hard working people who uses MI COCINA (my kitchen) on their name! I hope the Court rules in favor of “Mi Cocina Hondureña”, And also, I hope this helps your business because one good thing happened from this, now a lot of people knows you exist and, like myself, would love to tried your dishes. They sound delicious!