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In May, 2008 Wolfgang Puck Filed Suit Against Wolfgang’s Steakhouse
for Trademark Infringement, In June, 2008 Wolfgang Zwiener
files a Countersuit Against Wolfgang Puck

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June 4, 2008 - Wolfgang Zwiener, the former veteran head waiter at famed Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, NYC and current owner of highly-acclaimed steakhouses in New York, has filed a countersuit against Wolfgang Puck claiming Puck materially breached his contract with Wolfgang Zwiener by challenging Zwiener's use of the name Wolfgang's Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener in connection with Mr. Zwiener's recently opened high-end steak house in Beverly Hills. 

Last month, Wolfgang's Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener in Beverly Hills opened to a star-studded crowd. Two weeks after the opening, Puck filed suit against Wolfgang Zwiener claiming trademark infringement. Puck claims that some of his patrons have been confused by his new competition in Beverly Hills. According to the countersuit, Puck is violating a mutual agreement he signed in 2007 allowing Wolfgang Zwiener to open steakhouses outside New York City under the very name that Puck has now challenged. Zwiener's counterclaim alleges that Puck has failed to live up to his end of the bargain by interfering with Wolfgang Zwiener's right to open his steakhouse in Beverly Hills and refusing to meet with Wolfgang Zwiener to discuss ways to address Puck's allegations of confusion. 

Wolfgang Zwiener developed a national reputation in the steakhouse business and a huge following through his highly-acclaimed Wolfgang's Steakhouse restaurants in New York and his decades of service as the former head waiter at world famous Peter Luger Steak House. Before then, he served at Luchow's Restaurant, the elegant German restaurant and beer hall that was a cultural icon for many years and remained in operation for a full century. New York Magazine named Wolfgang's Steakhouse "Best New Steakhouse" in its May 21, 2005 edition. Wolfgang's Steakhouse is listed in ZAGAT Survey's list of America's Top Restaurants, TimeOut New York Eating & Drinking, and the Michelin and BlackBook guides to New York, among other guide books. Zwiener's steakhouses are generally packed and have been known to attract high-profile patrons and celebrities. 

Wolfgang Zwiener stated, "I will not allow Puck to prevent me from using my name at my Beverly Hills steakhouse simply because he claims that some of his friends and patrons have been 'confused.'" Peter Zwiener, Wolfgang Zwiener's son and one of the co-owners of Wolfgang's Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener, noted, "We chose Beverly Hills, California for our first steakhouse outside New York because there was enormous demand by our clientele to open an outpost in L.A. and L.A. is home to many transplanted New Yorkers." Although Puck claims great surprise in his lawsuit about the opening of the Wolfgang's Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener restaurant in Beverly Hills, the development process for this restaurant was publicly conducted and featured the direct and extensive involvement of the Beverly Hills City Council, which selected Zwiener's restaurant to fill the space, which is owned by the City of Beverly Hills. As Peter Zwiener also noted, "The City of Beverly Hills even approved the signage that Puck is objecting to." 

Papers filed by Zwiener's attorneys of the firm Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, P.C. state: "Despite Puck's melodramatic effort to paint Defendants as villains straight out of 'Casablanca,' ... the actual evidence reflects not a creative Hollywood movie plot, but only a more mundane and entirely legitimate business decision. Defendants expanded into Beverly Hills, as they had an absolute right to do under the Settlement Agreement with Puck, and conducted themselves in complete accordance with that agreement. Defendants sought to build on their own reputation developed as a result of their successful introduction of other 'Wolfgang's Steakhouse' restaurants in New York. While Puck may envision an imaginary world filled with sinister plots to take advantage of his good name, the record evidence simply does not support the Hollywood fiction he seeks to create." 

The Countersuit seeks dismissal of Puck's suit, compensatory damages and reimbursement of attorneys fees and related relief. 



 
Wolfgang Puck Files Suit against New Restaurant for Trademark Infringement Seeks Injunction in Light of Widespread Public Confusion over Name 

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - May 2008 - World-renowned chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck filed a trademark infringement and unfair competition suit today in Los Angeles Superior Court against the owners and operators of “WOLFGANG’S STEAKHOUSE BY WOLFGANG ZWIENER.” 

According to the lawsuit, the opening and promotion of the new restaurant has created confusion in the public’s mind regarding the affiliation of “WOLFGANG’S STEAKHOUSE” and Wolfgang Puck. Zwiener’s property is strategically located on North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills on the same street as Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant Spago and within blocks of Wolfgang Puck’s own award-winning steakhouse CUT. By also prominently featuring the name “Wolfgang’s STEAKHOUSE,” and minimizing the tag-line “BY WOLFGANG ZWIENER,” the lawsuit alleges that the owners and operators of “WOLFGANG’S STEAKHOUSE BY WOLFGANG ZWIENER” (one of whom is affiliated with a company whose license to use the Spago trademark in Japan ended in 2005 and Wolfgang Puck chose not to renew) are brazenly seeking to take unfair advantage of the reputation and enormous good will developed over the last 32 years by Wolfgang Puck and the Wolfgang Puck brand. 

In addition, the suit alleges that Mr. Zwiener has violated a 2007 agreement whereby it was agreed that if Zwiener opened a restaurant outside of Manhattan he would use his full name “Wolfgang Zwiener” in a manner which would eliminate confusion regarding any affiliation between “WOLFGANG’S STEAKHOUSE” and Wolfgang Puck. 

After six years as co-owner of the famous West Hollywood restaurant Ma Maison, Wolfgang left to open Spago in 1982 on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, eventually relocating it to North Canon Drive in Beverly Hills in 1997. Additionally, Wolfgang Puck has established 17 fine dining restaurants in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Beaver Creek, Detroit, Maui, San Francisco, Orlando, Washington, DC and Minneapolis. 

Tom Kaplan, senior managing partner of the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group stated, “Wolfgang Puck has developed a legendary name and reputation known for bold, innovative cooking and presenting dishes with panache and passion. He is a household name throughout the country, particularly in the Beverly Hills and Los Angeles communities, with a wide-reach and high-visibility in the celebrity, entertainment, business and political worlds. Overseeing three distinct and highly successful companies, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Wolfgang Puck Catering and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc., Wolfgang has worked tirelessly and spent many millions of dollars in developing, nurturing and promoting the Wolfgang Puck brand throughout the United States.” 

“In addition to authoring cookbooks, regularly appearing on television, writing a weekly syndicated newspaper column, and traveling to make personal appearances nationally throughout each year, Wolfgang remains first and foremost an extraordinary chef. This is reflected by his receipt of the 2008 Chef of the Year Award from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, as well as many other awards and accolades including multiple James Beard Foundation awards,” continued Kaplan. 

The suit notes that in recognition of what Los Angeles has meant to him, Puck is involved in many philanthropic endeavors and charitable organizations including the Puck-Lazaroff Charitable Foundation. It manages and supports the annual American Wine & Food Festival benefiting Los Angeles chapters of Meals on Wheels. The Foundation has raised more than thirteen million dollars since 1982 for these organizations. 

“People have come to me and asked why I was opening another steakhouse in Beverly Hills and whether I am going to close CUT,” noted Puck. “I tell them the new steakhouse has nothing to do with me and they stare in disbelief. The most common reaction is ‘It says “Wolfgang’s Steakhouse and you are Wolfgang,’” continued Puck adding, “In over thirty-two years, I have never encountered such confusion expressed by my patrons and in the media. My friends have repeatedly urged that I take the steps necessary to correct the ongoing misleading impression. All of this would have been avoided had Mr. Zwiener paid more than lip-service to our 2007 agreement and actually tried to avoid confusion.” 

The Complaint seeks an injunction to stop the infringement of the Wolfgang Puck Mark and to eliminate the source of the ongoing confusion and unfair competition; the recovery of damages incurred by Wolfgang Puck, including treble damages for false advertising; the rescission and cancellation of the 2007 agreement, an accounting and restitution of ill-gotten profits realized by the owners and operators of Mr. Zwiener’s restaurant; reimbursement of attorneys fees and related relief. 
David Beckwith, 323-845-9836 


 
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Contact:

Wolfgang's Steakhouse by Wolfgang Zwiener
Peter Zwiener, 646-642-4655
pzwiener@aol.com
 

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Also See: Two Monterey, California Hotels Litigate Over Name; Monterey Plaza Hotel Suing Portola Plaza Hotel Claiming Trademark Infringement Over the Word Plaza / November 2006
Marriott International Takes the Owner of a 6 room Bed & Breakfast to Court, Citing Trademark Infringement over the Name Vinoy / November 2002
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