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Texas Roadhouse blues

So there’s a national franchise called the “Texas Roadhouse”, and there’s a privately owned watering hole in La Vernia called the True Blue Texas Roadhouse. Put ’em together and what do you get? Right. A lawsuit.

The Kentucky-based Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain sued the La Vernia bar and owner Douglas Bode in U.S. District Court in Austin earlier this month, claiming trademark infringement.

The Texas Roadhouse chain operates more than 165 bar-restaurants with Texas memorabilia on the walls and peanut shells on the floor. They’re in 30 states and have 24 franchises in Texas, including Texas Roadhouses just off major highways in Waco, San Antonio and Killeen.

The True Blue Texas Roadhouse is a 40-by-100-foot corrugated metal building that used to be a garage. There’s just one, next to fields of sunflowers on the two-lane Texas 87 between San Antonio and Victoria.

The front is painted the red, white and blue of the Texas flag, and the inside features four pool tables and a steady stream of country music. Bartenders serve bags of chips and a lot of Bud Light to a couple of dozen customers a weeknight and two or three times that many on weekends.

“I am just trying to make a living. I don’t want to offend anybody,” said Bode, 38, a tall man with big hands and a gentle voice. “For God’s sake, I’m a Texas bar. Why can’t I use that name?”

Bode, a former curtain company production manager, said he thought of the name on a late night drive with friends back from New Orleans. He did some research of business names with the clerk in Wilson County, and it looked as if True Blue Texas Roadhouse was available, he said. Just over two years ago, he opened up.

In the lawsuit, Texas Roadhouse’s lawyer, Tom Walsh of Dallas, wrote that Bode violated the corporation’s rights to its federal and state trademarks, which were filed before Bode opened the bar. The first Texas Roadhouse opened in Indiana in 1993.

By using “Texas Roadhouse” in his bar’s name, Bode “calculated to deceive the relevant consuming public into accepting and purchasing Bode’s services in the mistaken belief that they are Texas Roadhouse’s services,” wrote Walsh, of Fish & Richardson, a prominent Dallas intellectual property firm.

The nearest Texas Roadhouse restaurant to the bar is about 20 miles away in Live Oak, north of San Antonio.

Emphasis mine. I don’t have any opinion about the merits of this lawsuit. I just find it really weird that the trademark to “Texas Roadhouse” is owned by an outfit in Kentucky and was first used in Indiana.

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13 Comments

  1. Mike Berry says:

    Do you happen to know the email address of the Texas Roadhouse headquarters office? I and some friends want to start an email campaign to get these corporate bullies off the back of the small bar owner east of San Antonio. We’ve tried their Web site without success.

    Thanks, Mike Berry

  2. Candy Lane says:

    A little country bar outside a little country Texas town. It would be different if it was a steakhouse?? NOPE! Nobody should be able to trademark the name of a Soverign State. Think about this now…What would happen if their corporate lawyers wrote to EVERY business in Texas (with that word in its name) with threats of lawsuits, but said they would settle out of court….they would make more money that way than selling their steaks! I go to True Blue sometimes and its a nice little country place where neighbors meet…help us keep it open and with the same name! Thanks!

  3. Heidi says:

    What a mean nasty corporation (is there any other kind?). I just wrote them and told them that we Texans were smart enough to tell the difference between a pseudo wanna-be chain restaurant and a real Texas Roadhouse.

    I also noticed that on their website they hawk Willie Nelson stuff… I wonder if Willie knows about all of this? I doubt it.

    I’ve never been to the True Blue Texas Roadhouse, but I will go check it out very soon.

    Cheers,
    Heidi

  4. P.A. Crone says:

    My sentiments exactly!
    I just wrote a letter to Al Franken of Air America radio about this. He had and WON a similar fight against FOX Network for the use of the words “Fair” and “Balanced” for his new book.
    FOX said they owned those words. The court said,
    “NO!” That’s GOOD!

    Here’s the letter I wrote to Air America Radio:
    The neocons are working their voodoo in Texas. Like the fight between FOX Network and Al Franken’s use of the words “Fair and Balanced”; a small single business in Texas owned by, Douglas Bode of Seguin, Texas. The name of his little tavern is called,
    “True Blue Texas Roadhouse”.
    Bode is being sued for name infringement by a huge conglomerate of several restaurants that’s based out of Kentucky called, “The Texas Roadhouse.”
    The rich bully on the block is suing Bode for the use of the words, “Texas” and “Roadhouse” and also sticking him with their legal bills and telling him that he cannot use the image of his own home state of Texas or the armadillo!
    At first, Bode was going to settle with the giant Kentucky nester. After all he only owns that small tavern and does not even sell food and even if he did his name is NOT exactly like the Kentucky Restaurant and the use of these two words constitutes no more fraud than for a Valentine card company to claim only it owns the words, “I LOVE YOU”!
    This makes my ass want to dip snuff!
    Bode changed his mind last week and after several folks encouraged him to fight back – he’s hired a lawyer. GOOD!

    Wish him luck Al Franken. You ought to know what he is going through. Read your book – it’s great. Keep up the good fight.
    Congratulations and great success to Air America Radio.
    Thanks buddy!

    End of Letter

    P.C. in Texas

    I noticed the use of Willie Nelson’s name too on the website of this Kentucky chain. My brother in law plays a stell and I think it would be good to have a benefit dance to raise money to help the La Vernia tavern stand it’s rightful ground!
    If you protest on the website for the chain – don’t click on “Contact us” you’ll get the restaurants in each state. Click instead where it says, “Company info” and contact their headquarters if you like.
    Meanwhile, I think Willie ought to know about this , after all he has experienced the pain of the big guys putting the royal screws to the little guy!

  5. P.A. Crone says:

    OOPS! That’s “STEEL” ~ (sorry Glenn!) Ha ha!

  6. JOHN MARTINEZ says:

    MY FAMILY HAS LIVED IN TEXAS FOR OVER 5 GENERATIONS. AS A TEXAN I WISH MR. BODE ALL THE BEST. TEXAS IS A LAND OF FIGHTERS AS SUCH MR. BODE REFLECTS THAT TO THE CORE. REMEMBER THE ALAMO

  7. Branden C says:

    I am the manager of the True Blue Texas Roadhouse in La Vernia TX. I would like to thank all of you for you kind words and support. This is the a true David on Goliath fight. We are just good ol’ boys down here, but we are Texans. We might be small. We might not have the financial backing the “Texas Roadhouse” does, but…as Texans…we will fight till the end. Thank you again so much. And if your ever near San Antonio, come check us out. We have some of the coldest beer in Texas. Our direct number to the bar is (830) 253-1000

  8. Niki F says:

    My husband recently lost a wallet at the Texas Roadhouse at Quail Springs in OKC and the attention and help given to this was horrendous. Not only did the staff and managemet not seem to care that the loss (theft?) occurred but the management hasn’t even responded to an email report of this incident the same day followed by a phone call the next day. We’ll never set foot in that restaurant again!!

  9. JASON L says:

    THE DUTCHMANS LANE TEXAS ROADHOUSE IN LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY IS HORRIBLE FOR THEIR SERVICE. I WOULD NOT ADVISE ANYBODY TO GO TO THAT ONE. I HAVE ALERTED THE BBB ABOUT THE SERVICE THERE TOO.

  10. doris says:

    I have just returned from the Dutchmans Lane Texas Roadhouse in Louisville, KY. where I met a party of 6 others to have dinner. We were placed in the back booth next to a family with 3 boys approx. aged 1-6years. The youngest boy SCREAMED for one hour as loud as he could. We couldn’t hear one another talk, couldn’t enjoy our meal and it was extremely nerve wracking. We were limited where we could sit because we were a party of 7. We complained to the manager but were told there was nothing she could do. Although our waiter was very apologetic and the service was good, I’ll never go back there. Three of us had to bring our meal home because we were unable to eat in that atmosphere. We felt the manager brushed us off as though it was a trivial matter.

  11. Melissa S says:

    I think this whole thing is a load of crap, True Blue is an awesome place to hang out for people any age and i really think its ridiculous how Texas Roadhouse is starting all this over nothing really.Coming from someone who used to live in Seguin and someone who is best friends with the owners son i can honestly say True Blue is always my number one hang out when i am down visiting.I recently moved to dallas area (only maybe 2 blocks away from a texas Roadhouse). My family and I are very limited to where to eat sometimes and I came definetly say the food and service there sucks.

  12. Jason says:

    Yeah, this sucks, but damn. Some of you can find a “neocon conspiracy” in anything.

    “My sugar is lumpy…..we must have a neocon running rampant in the house.”

    *Shakes Head*

    And yeah, Willie knows they hawk his stuff. He owns a chunk of the company. I bet that was a neocon that snuck into his bank and bought those shares. They probably used magical neocon forget juice so Willie doesn’t even know what is going on.

    To the restauranteur, my best wishes in your fight to keep your name. It is a bit ludicrous to trademark “Texas roadhouse” in this sense. We deffinately live in an amazingly litigious society (nodoubt all those neocon trial lawyers, gufaw!).

    To some of the others of, take off the damn political prism glasses and grow a new idea or two. I can name you plenty of arses on both sides of the isle. This politcal myopia is just getting ridiculous. I mean, Crone, you actually tattle told to Al Franken! It’s like fifth grade all over again!

    The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?

  13. Kay says:

    Don’t they have better things to spend their money on than a lawsuit?? Call me crazy, but the names are not the same. Do they seriously think a bar in Texas is a threat to their restaurant chain? I just hope that the bar’s owner doesn’t go broke with court costs. There needs to be some national exposure — wonder if Kinky Friedman (sp?) would be interested in helping out a fellow Texan — might help his campaign!!