Rutt’s and Mutt’s

From the Regional section of the NYT yesterday: “Does Mutt’s Infringe on Rutt’s? Hot Dog Status Is at Stake” by Peter Applebome, about a tradename conflict between hot dog establishments in Clifton NJ: the venerable Rutt’s Hut, founded in 1928 by Royal “Abe” Rutt and his wife, Anna, and the upstart Mutt’s Hut, which until January was Adam’s Bagel and Deli. Two rhyming names, one using the proper name Rutt, the other cleverly using mutt ‘dog’.

It seems likely that Mutt’s Hut picked up its name on the pattern of Rutt’s Hut. The question is whether this constitutes a trademark violation. From Applebome’s piece:

A few days after the new Mutt’s Hut sign went up in January, Mutt’s received a letter from lawyers for Rutt’s Hut saying that the name Rutt’s Hut had a federal trademark and that the use of the name Mutt’s Hut “constitutes a willful, obvious and inexcusable infringement of our client’s intellectual property rights.” A second letter followed on Feb. 15, then a federal lawsuit on March 9 seeking damages and the removal of the name.

… Richard Lehv, a lawyer who teaches trademark and copyright law at Columbia University Law School, said the dispute had similarities to other local culinary trademark issues, like those surrounding pizza places named Ray’s and pasta sauces named Patsy’s. He said a court will judge numerous issues: logos, menus, clientele, whether there is evidence of customers being confused, the origin of the name Mutt’s Hut, the strength of the Rutt’s Hut trademark among them. “Likelihood of confusion, as you can guess, isn’t a bright-line standard,” or clear-cut division, he said.

The two places offer very different sorts of hot dogs:

The main draw at Rutt’s Hut is the Ripper, a deep-fried hot dog cooked until the skin rips open. It is eaten with a special sweet relish.

Mutt’s Hut’s plain with mustard uses a Sabrett hot dog.

Meanwhile, hot dog litigation proceeds.

Hot dog stories — almost always illustrated by photos of the product — are popular for two reasons: the hot dog’s role as a common-culture food in the U.S., and the unavoidably risible phallicity of sausages, hot dogs, frankfurters, and wieners. I’ve posted on the latter point a number of times:

3/27/10: The Saturday cartoon crop (link)
8/22/10: for Mod values of Adj (link)
8/23/10: Failure to fact-check (link)
9/11/10: Pink Freud (link)
9/12/10: Phallicity: Würste (link)
9/21/10: Phallicity: hi-def meets hot dog (link)
10/31/10: Wieners (link)


2 Responses to “Rutt’s and Mutt’s”

  1. Corndogs and their ilk « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

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  2. Food and drink postings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] and Mutt’s (link) hot dog […]

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