A new Austin pizza shop will – at least for now – be able to keep its name after winning the first round of a court battle with a similarly named restaurant chain.
Umami Mia Pizzeria, which opened in May at 1500 Barton Springs Road in Central Austin, was sued in June by Los Angeles-based Umami Burger, which alleged trademark infringement.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks declined this month to issue an injunction that would have blocked the pizzeria from using the Umami name. The case is now set for mediation. If that fails, it could head to court next year, documents indicate.
Umami Burger, part of the Umami Restaurant Group, didn’t respond to a message from the American-Statesman seeking comment.
“Umami” is the so-called fifth taste. (The others are bitter, salty, sour and sweet.) Because all five words are found in “almost every modern English-language dictionary,” veteran Austin restaurateurs Mark Turner, Rick Engel and Adam Weisberg, who founded Umami Mia Pizzeria, say one company can’t “own a monopoly” on their usage.
Umami Burger, however, has continued to push forward with its claims.
In the court filing, Umami Burger says it has been featured recently in several publications, including GQ magazine and the New York Times, and is planning a national expansion. Executives say they fear the Austin pizza restaurant might create confusion.
“Defendants’ use of the Umami Mia designation is likely to lead consumers to incorrectly believe that defendants or their restaurant services are authorized by, sponsored by or affiliated with Umami Restaurant Group and its well-known marks and restaurant services,” the suit claims. “Upon information and belief, defendants intentionally chose the Umami Mia designation to trade off of the goodwill associated with the Umami family of marks.”
Turner, Engel and Weisberg say that’s simply not true.
“We’ve always believed that there is no likelihood a customer would confuse Umami Mia Pizzeria with Umami Burger,” Turner said. “As the court recognized, one is a burger joint and one is a pizza restaurant. There is no confusion in the marketplace that the two are connected.
“They’re an out-of-state California burger joint with only two locations outside of California. Nothing in Austin. Nothing in Texas. We believe that a very low percentage of Texans have even heard of them.”