Jury sides with Buc-ee’s in intellectual property lawsuit against rival convenience store chain

by Meagan Martin Powers

A Houston jury has sided with the popular Texas convenience store chain Buc-ee’s in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed in federal court against a rival company. The lawsuit alleged that the cartoon alligator logo of a San Antonio and South Texas based convenience store chain called Choke Canyon was too similar to the famous Buc-ee’s cartoon beaver logo.

The Buc-ee’s lawsuit was filed in December 2015 against Choke Canyon and its owner, Amjad “John” Panjwani. Panjwani is the owner of a Texas convenience store chain and two barbecue restaurants, all of which operate under the name Choke Canyon.

According to the lawsuit, the Choke Canyon logo –featuring an alligator wearing a cowboy hat – is substantially similar to the Buc-ee’s logo. Both the Choke Canyon and Buc-ee’s logo feature animal cartoon characters in front of a yellow circle. Attorneys for Buc-ee’s said there were at least 10 similarities between the company’s logo and the logo for Choke Canyon.

Buc-ee’s said that the similarities between the two companies’ logos diluted the value of its brand and the intellectual property value of its logo. During the trial, the company presented testimony from two customers who said that they were confused by the Choke Canyon logo and assumed that the stores were related to Buc-ee’s.

Attorneys for Choke Canyon argued that Buc-ee’s did not file the suit for intellectual property reasons, but because the chain viewed Choke Canyon as a viable business competitor. However, jurors in the case disagreed, awarding Buc-ee’s a total victory in the case.

Intellectual property experts say that they expect Choke Canyon to appeal the jury’s ruling. The experts pointed to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison before the trial, which barred Choke Canyon from telling jurors about the company’s federal registration of the convenience store chain’s logo. Judge Ellison also barred Choke Canyon from presenting an expert survey of 300 people about the two companies’ logos, which found that 99% of the respondents said that was no likelihood of confusing the two logos. Both rulings, legal experts say, could be grounds for appeal.

Intellectual Property and Commercial Litigation Claims Filed by HO&P

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have handled intellectual property and commercial litigation cases on behalf of businesses of all sizes, ranging from small, local businesses to some of the largest multinational corporations in the world.

We have handled claims brought by a large company for infringement of its rail car patent, claims by a local inventor for infringement of her patent for a childcare product and claims by an Israeli company against a Fortune 500 company for infringement of its wireless technology patent. Our firm has also represented a client suing a large American pharmaceutical company for interfering with its patent rights to liposome technology.

The ability of our law firm to successfully handle intellectual property cases is aided by the extensive trial experience possessed by our attorneys. Although technical knowledge and familiarity with laws regarding intellectual property is essential for attorneys handling these claims, there is no substitute for courtroom experience. The seasoned litigators at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have the track record to take on even the most complex cases and explain them in terms a jury can understand.

If you or your company requires legal representation in a copyright or intellectual property matter, contact Heygood, Orr & Pearson for a free legal consultation. You can reach our attorneys by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions about your case to get started.

by Meagan Martin Powers

Meagan Martin Powers is a licensed attorney and partner at HO&P who focuses her practice on commercial litigation, bankruptcy and creditor’s rights matters, and small business legal advisory.