Sign of the times: Fight brewing over El Arroyo restaurant’s name


Highlights

Founder’s daughter asks federal judge to declare Cozumel Inc. obtained its trademark via “fraud.”

A trial date has not been set.

The sign outside El Arroyo gets plenty of looks each day, as it serves up a steady diet of humorous one-liners.

But now the Tex-Mex restaurant is getting some unwanted attention, with a court battle brewing over who actually owns the El Arroyo name.

In a filing in U.S. District Court in Austin, the daughter of the restaurant’s founder claims the entity that has served as El Arroyo’s operator, Cozumel Inc., used “fraudulent representations” in filings with the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office that date back more than two decades.

Those filings led to a trademark being issued for the El Arroyo name and logo – a trademark that Susan Ogden says her father, Robert Ogden, had already obtained in 1989.

RELATED: El Arroyo sign weighs in on 2016 presidential election

Ellis Winstanley, who took over Cozumel Inc. in 2012, long after the trademark had already been obtained by Cozumel Inc., told the American-Statesman on Monday that he disputes the claims made in the suit and plans to file a formal response soon – perhaps this week. Cozumel Inc., he said, “absolutely” owns the El Arroyo brand.

“The unfortunate reality of our legal system is anyone can file whatever they want, whenever they want,” Winstanley said. “We’ve always been up front and above board. We’ll be fighting this vigorously.”

Susan Ogden claims in court documents that Cozumel Inc. has tried numerous times over the years to buy the El Arroyo trademark from her family while, at the same time, claiming it already owns the trademark.

“At no time did the Ogdens grant Cozumel any assignment, covenant or other rights or interest under the El Arroyo mark that did not require the Ogdens’ consent and authorization to use the mark,” the suit states. “The Ogdens never conveyed ownership to the El Arroyo name to Cozumel or any party outside the family.”

RELATED: El Arroyo, Eastside Tavern say what everyone’s thinking about ACL Fest

Susan Ogden says in her filing that the restaurant has fallen on hard times with Winstanley’s team at the helm.

“Cozumel Inc. has failed to live up to its lease obligations and is under eviction order, which it has appealed,” the suit says. “This has triggered Ms. Ogden to exercise her obligation to maintain the quality and goodwill associated with the El Arroyo mark. Cozumel’s clear intent to disregard Ms. Ogden’s ownership and take with it the valuable El Arroyo mark caused Ms. Ogden to file this suit.”

Winstanley denied that El Arroyo is struggling.

“That’s false,” he said. “We’ve seen, especially these past few years, the opposite – a real resurgence in popularity.”

Ogden is asking a federal judge to declare Cozumel Inc. obtained its trademark via fraud and to either void that trademark or transfer it to her.

She’s seeking to prevent Cozumel Inc. from using the El Arroyo name at any location other than the current restaurant, which is at 1624 W. Fifth St. on downtown Austin’s western edge. She also seeks court costs and attorneys’ fees.

A trial date has not been set.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Top Local Business Stories of the Week

MILITARY TECH General says new tech center in Austin will keep U.S. Army relevant: The U.S. Army’s new technology center in Austin, named its Futures Command, is necessary for the military branch to remain “the best army in the world,” Army Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley said this past week. Wesley, who was in Austin with a team of Army officials...
Austin-area apartment rents hit record high
Austin-area apartment rents hit record high

For a couple of years, apartment dwellers in the Austin-area got a bit of a break from sharply rising rents amid a surge of new supply and somewhat slower job growth. But the respite is proving to be short-lived, experts say. Job growth has gained momentum, leasing has picked up steam and the Central Texas apartment market is once again on the rise...
Area jobless rate at 3.2% amid hot economy; average wages slow to rise
Area jobless rate at 3.2% amid hot economy; average wages slow to rise

A trend of near 20-year lows in the Austin metro area’s monthly unemployment rate continued in June, although by some measures the tight labor market has yet to fuel gains in average wages for workers. The local jobless rate registered 3.2 percent last month, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, the lowest nonseasonally adjusted rate...
Man fired after encounter with 'racist' customer. After sharing his story, Home Depot offers job back.
Man fired after encounter with 'racist' customer. After sharing his story, Home Depot offers job back.

After a man last Thursday approached the checkout at a Home Depot in Albany, New York, staff member Maurice Rucker asked him to leash his dog. That's when the man exploded. » RELATED: Atlanta's Home Depot growing in various ways, but not new stores Rucker, a 60-year-old black man, claimed he was fired Tuesday after defending himself from...
Colton House luxury hotel planned for South Congress Avenue
Colton House luxury hotel planned for South Congress Avenue

Austin’s hotel boom shows no signs of letting up. The latest example: Developers have started work on an 80-room luxury hotel in South Austin. The Colton House is going up at 2510 S. Congress Ave., near West Oltorf Street. The site had previously been occupied by the Taste of China Express restaurant. It’s set to debut in fall 2019. Inherit...
More Stories