The owners of the Salitre Meson Costero restaurant in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, have sued Hilton International of Puerto Rico Inc. in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico [3:19-cv-02165] for trademark infringement and unfair competition by using the name Salitre and then Salitre de Caribe for a restaurant in its Caribe Hilton hotel. Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction, $4 million in damages, and $650,000 for corrective advertising.
Hilton used the name briefly in 2019, but promptly changed it to Nectar de Caribe after Plaintiffs initially complained, a move that Plaintiffs claim “proves that the Defendants have recognized the willful confusion they caused.”
Plaintiffs further complained that Defendants keep using the menus intended to evoke the views, feelings, environment and characteristics that Salitre Meson Costero evokes, including “the view, the palm trees and the whole tropical sea motif.”
Competition in the restaurant industry can be fierce. New restaurants and existing restaurants undergoing rebranding efforts should be aware of competing trademark rights and should conduct thorough trademark searches before choosing a name. Restaurants also need to be aware of the many elements of a restaurant that can be protected by trademarks and trade dress, such as menus, logos, and mobile apps, as well as the way the interior is decorated, the furniture or fixtures, the way the servers are dressed, and even how the food is presented.