Skip

Goats on the Roof Trade Dress
September 17, 2010 3:55 PM   Subscribe


 
"Goats on the Roof"/"Pants on the Ground" mashup in 5... 4... 3...
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:11 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm actually surprised this didn't involve a Greek or Mediterranean restaurant.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:11 PM on September 17, 2010


The posts tag indicating that copyright is appropriate for this issue is wrong. This has nothign to do with copyright. It's a trademark case. Without having any of the court decisions or facts, I hate the fact that this is offered up for debate.

I guess these days we are just supposed to follow like a herd of sheep in assuming any IP enforcement is baaaaahd. Even when we don't know the law, the reasons behind the law, or the particular facts of a case.
posted by Muddler at 4:34 PM on September 17, 2010


I guess these days we are just supposed to follow like a herd of sheep

A herd of goats, surely.
posted by jedicus at 4:39 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I guess these days we are just supposed to follow like a herd of sheep in assuming any IP enforcement is baaaaahd. Even when we don't know the law, the reasons behind the law, or the particular facts of a case.

Well, yes. The entire notion of "intellectual property" is bankrupt.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:40 PM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey Pa! There's a goat on the roof!
posted by moonmilk at 4:42 PM on September 17, 2010


What a silly thing to trademark. Sod roofs are pretty common, at least historically, so it isn't exactly a big leap to stick a few goats up there.

I grew up near the place in Coombs, BC with goats on the roof. I'm glad that the US trademark doesn't extend to Canada (though it seems the Canadian version pre-dates this jerk's trademark anyways).
posted by ssg at 4:51 PM on September 17, 2010


Mr Al Johnson needs a hoof to the spuds.
posted by biffa at 4:51 PM on September 17, 2010


Nanny state.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:53 PM on September 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


I guess these days we are just supposed to follow like a herd of sheep in assuming any IP enforcement is baaaaahd. Even when we don't know the law, the reasons behind the law, or the particular facts of a case.

And yet this is what happens:

In July, Virginia news outlets reported that goats on a hillside routinely hopped onto a platform under a billboard advertising two International House of Pancakes restaurants. Drivers pulled over to snap pictures, and one IHOP manager was quoted saying he enjoyed the publicity. Mr. Johnson says his lawyer is monitoring the situation in case "they take it a step further."

So in answer, um, yes?
posted by kaspen at 4:59 PM on September 17, 2010




The reporting on this seems confused. First, the article conflates trade dress and trademarks. The two are related but legally distinct with different standards for obtaining protection. Second, the article mentions the Wisconsin restaurant registering the Goats on the Roof mark in 1996, but the US Trademark Office only has one entry for Goats on the Roof (or any sensible variation thereof that I could find), and that was registered in 2009 by the Georgia restaurant. I checked the Wisconsin state database but didn't find anything there, either.

Right now I'm looking up the case on PACER to see if that sheds any light on this.

I'd need some more facts to really analyze the case, but I suspect that one could attack the trade dress on the basis that it is actually functional, and thus ineligible for trade dress protection. Qualitex v. Jacobson Prods., 513 US 159 (1995). Sod roofs have clear utility (lower cooling bills, green space, etc) and goats are a natural way to keep a sod roof trimmed (they can handle the incline of a roof, they eat anything, etc). This wouldn't apply to restaurants that used, for example, a plastic goat on an astroturf roof, but a proper sod roof and real goat seems eminently functional to me.
posted by jedicus at 5:04 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


In July, Virginia news outlets reported that goats on a hillside routinely hopped onto a platform under a billboard advertising two International House of Pancakes restaurants. Drivers pulled over to snap pictures, and one IHOP manager was quoted saying he enjoyed the publicity. Mr. Johnson says his lawyer is monitoring the situation in case "they take it a step further."

Probably not much to worry about, Al. IHOP is the one place that you can be pretty sure will never have goats on the roof.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:06 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, yes. The entire notion of "intellectual property" is bankrupt.

But, but... my video mashups! My pixel art! My god- what about my fan fiction?!

I'm a content creator, people!
posted by hamida2242 at 5:21 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Al needs to up the ante and get some baby monkeys on those goats pronto.
posted by orme at 5:45 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heh! I've had Swedish meatballs at that establishment.

But in 1989. When I was 9. Before they started to be dicks about the goats.
posted by Chef Flamboyardee at 5:51 PM on September 17, 2010


You know what else is willful?


Goats.
posted by quin at 5:53 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


jedicus, it appears to be Reg. Number 2007624, covered by two serial numbers, 74646306 (from 1996, first use in commerce 1973, renewed 2006) and 77936651 (from 2010, possibly just to add "detached houses" to "barns, etc.".

Muddler: It appears to have settled out of court, so no findings of fact, etc.
posted by dhartung at 5:55 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, you need something to sell Swedish cuisine. I know. My whole family is Swedish and aside from the meatballs at Christmas, you're going to have a hard time convincing anyone to eat that stuff willingly.

*thinks about lutefisk* *shudders*
posted by sonika at 5:57 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Boy, reporting like that really gets my cabrito.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:59 PM on September 17, 2010


Well, yes. The entire notion of "intellectual property" is bankrupt.

I respectfully disagree with this blanket statement.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:59 PM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wonder if Charlotte is the first goat in Journal history to get the ink-dot (hedcut) treatment?
posted by donpedro at 6:01 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I second Navelgazer.

I also suggest a MetaTalk thread where we can discuss whether the use of the term "bankrupt" is offensive in this, or indeed any, context.
posted by cucumber at 6:05 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


dhartung: Thanks for digging up the trademarks (service marks, in fact).

Indeed, the case only got as far as the complaint and some procedural issues (attorney admissions, mostly) before it settled. I suspect the defendant didn't have the cash to fight it, but I really do think it wouldn't stand up to an argument that it's covering something functional. This is not really an indictment of the IP system as it is the economics of litigation in general.
posted by jedicus at 6:38 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know what else is willful?
Goats.


That's why they're called "nature's president."
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:43 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Door County, born and bred here. I have to admit, I've never eaten at Al Johnson's, but of course, knew about it growing up. (Grew up in Southern Door (farm country!), the touristy area is Northern Door, which is where Al's is)

Anyways... I wanted to take my girlfriend on a tour next year and planned on stopping in up there for our first experience. Supposedly it's good food. But it does leave a bitter taste in my mouth (no pun intended) that he's pulling such antics.

I may call and register my disgust and let them know. Not that it matters, but hey. If you're gonna be a dick, then you should get called on it.

The funny thing is that I always thought the goats on the roof thing was some sort of cultural callback to his ancient Swedish ancestors. But apparently it's not?
posted by symbioid at 7:00 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Clearly someone needs to open a diner next door with a chupacabra or dos on the roof.
posted by TedW at 7:08 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Trademarks are meant to protect the consumer from confusion, by allowing them to clearly distinguish one product from another. Obviously, if the Wisconsin restaurant with goats on its roof is allowed to continue its infringement, consumers will be harmed by inadvertently going to Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Wisconsin when they intended to go to Goats on the Roof in Georgia.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:34 PM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dang, got my restaurants backwards.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:36 PM on September 17, 2010


Hey Pa! There's a goat on the roof!

I can see my goat from here. Hey goat, get off the dang roof!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:52 PM on September 17, 2010


Look, I oppose virtually the entirety of modern IP law (and yes, I broadly include trademarks, patents, and copyrights under that).

But c'mon... Goats on the frickin' roof? This doesn't amount to a fair use issue so much as wholesale ripping off a nonsequitur. Having goats on the roof doesn't in any way impact my life (or more importantly, that of anyone not directly involved in this case) or dining experience. I can think of no reason whatsoever to justify caring about someone else doing the same stupid thing.

Now, that doesn't make "the original" any less of an ass for using the law as a club in this situation. But really, we have so many better angles from which to attack IP law (6692d179... FTW!), I just can't seem to get my briefs in a bunch over this.
posted by pla at 8:28 PM on September 17, 2010


Dang, got my restaurants backwards.

I think you just proved your own point. Kudos!
posted by swift at 8:32 PM on September 17, 2010


You will not believe how much gas I wasted driving to that stupid restaurant in Georgia! The goats weren't even that good!
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:49 PM on September 17, 2010


The young Mr. Johnson said he worries that a goat will fall into a group of observers, as Buckshot did last year after stretching too far to munch on a cedar tree. Nobody was harmed, and the goat appeared to have fully recovered as he chewed a reporter's shirttail.
posted by Xere at 8:53 PM on September 17, 2010


Ha. I have eaten there so many times. My parents have a condo in Sister Bay and I had to spend summer upon summer there as a kid. The food is actually pretty good. The goats always spooked me, though.
posted by millipede at 10:02 PM on September 17, 2010


Well, yes. The entire notion of "intellectual property" is bankrupt.

I respectfully disagree with this blanket statement.


Hey! That was my idea first!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:33 PM on September 17, 2010


Without having any of the court decisions or facts, I hate the fact that this is offered up for debate.

What, you only do appeals?
posted by ryanrs at 12:06 AM on September 18, 2010


I was recently in Imlil (Morocco) for a few days. The riad I was staying at served evening meals on a roof terrace, from where we had a great view across the valley to another village.

One of the houses in that village had a mule which lived on their roof. It'd make quite a racket at sundown, for whatever reasons mules have for making rackets at sundown, and quickly established itself as the highlight of Morocco in the mind of my daughter. Every postcard we sent had a reference to the mule on the roof. When she went back to school last week she did a show-and-tell affair consisting of drawings and photos of the mule on the roof.

Never under-estimate the appeal of an animal on a roof. If we lived near the goats on the roof restaurant I'm sure my daughter would beg to go there.

Of course... in Morocco they have goats in trees. But thats just showing off.
posted by samworm at 5:30 AM on September 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Enough is ENOUGH! I am tired of these motherfucking goats on this motherfucking roof!
posted by Biru at 7:23 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


We once drove more than an hour to eat at the WI restaurant with goats on the roof. It was raining and the goats were not on the roof.
posted by Jahaza at 2:24 PM on September 18, 2010


INTELLECTUAL LOLPERTY
posted by tehloki at 3:43 PM on September 18, 2010


Just stopping in to say "Hooray! Goats on the Roof!"
We stop there (the one in Georgia) every time we drive from ATL to Asheville.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 1:17 PM on September 19, 2010


Well, yes. The entire notion of "intellectual property" is bankrupt.

ARGH! Trademark enforcement has nothing to do with "intellectual property." It's simply an attempt to have some sort of truth in advertising.

Trademark enforcement is not saying, "You stole my great idea to put goats on my roof!"

Trademark enforcement is saying, "You're deceiving and confusing people by putting goats on your roof. You're tricking them into thinking your restaurant is related to my restaurant."

Whether or not this particular claim has any merit, the general idea that you shouldn't be able to lie to people and claim that your business is related to my business is a million miles away from the debate about intellectual property and whether or not someone can own an idea or steal an idea.
posted by straight at 8:02 AM on September 30, 2010


« Older The Paradox of Metabolically Healthy Obesity   |   Backwards on a pig, baby monkey Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post