Judge Rules That the Word ‘Umami’ Cannot Be Trademarked

Good news for people into trademark regulation, umami, and getting into the restaurant biz: a Texas judge has ruled that 2013’s hot food buzzword “umami” cannot be trademarked, in response to a lawsuit filed by the famed Umami Burger against upstart Austin pizza chain Umami Mia.

The California burger chain, which recently opened up its first NYC location, filed an injunction against the pizza company claiming copyright infringement, and demanded that they immediately change their name to something more pizza-ish and less Japanese food science-y. However, in a preliminary injunction hearing, Texas federal judge Sam Sparks (who writes, in this author’s opinion, some of the funniest rulings in the federal courts) ruled that the word “umami” is so commonplace that it cannot be monopolized, and allowed Umami Mia to remain open. (Are you listening, Concrete Blonde lady?)

Umami Mia’s fairly certain that US trademark law is on their side, and are confident that they’ll eventually win the lawsuit. “There is no likelihood a customer would confuse Umami Mia Pizzeria with Umami Burger,” its owner, Mark Turner, told Eater Austin. “As the court recognized, one is a burger joint, and one is a pizza restaurant. There is no confusion in the marketplace that the two are connected.”

Are you ready for the bad news? The bad news is that the precedent set by this case might lead to roughly 2.3 gajillion hipster restaurants opening in the next year with the word “umami” in their name. It might be a commonplace word, but it’ll soon be as ubiquitous as words like “artisanal,” “heritage,” and “beard.”

[Eater Austin]

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