California restaurant loses round in legal battle for ‘umami’

| Aug 21, 2013 | Trademark Law

“Umami” is a word borrowed from Japanese that can be very loosely translated as richness or or savoriness.

It’s also the center of a trademark dispute between a California burger restaurant and a Texas pizzeria.

Earlier this summer, Umami Burger. which has locations in Palo Alto, Pasadena and Thousand Oaks, asked a judge to grant it an injunction against Umami Mia Pizzeria in Austin. Umami Burger alleged that there would be a high likelihood of consumer confusion. It also claimed that burgers were more likely than pizza to have “umami.” Thus, it asked that the judge prevent Umami Mia pizzeria from using the phrase “umami” in its name.

In a recent preliminary hearing, though, the judge ruled that “umami” was “a common word that could not be monopolized.” He also observed that pizza was probably just as likely as burgers to have umami.

What is interesting about that decision is the fact that it accepts that umami is a widely used phrase. Although gourmets may know it, but it certainly is not as widely used as other common phrases, like “tasty”or “delicious.”

We took note of this story because we often work on trademark cases. We believe it is important to stay abreast of what is happening in this field because keeping up-to-date on such matters helps us offer our clients the best possible service.

If you ever have a dispute related to a trademark, patent, copyright or trade secret, it may be a good idea to speak with an attorny about the matter.


Source: The Eater, “Umami Mia Pizzeria Wins Preliminary Trademark Hearing,” Aug. 20, 2013