Wiener Wars Heat Up in Chicago in Trademark Infringement Lawsuit

The owners of Vienna Beef is suing the grandson of one of the company's founders, alleging he ripped off the company's century-old recipe, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Chicago Trade Secret Lawyers have years of experience battling inside and outside the courtroom for the rights of businesses who either have been ripped off by competitors or wrongly accused of such. Trademark infringement in Chicago is a serious allegation and can do a world of damage to a business, small or large. This case demonstrates the importance of carefully preparing an intellectual property agreement to maximize your company's ability to enforce non-disclosure and non-competition obligations.

Chicagoans love their all-beef hot dogs fresh on a poppy seed bun chock full of pickles, onions, tomatoes, mustard and peppers. But they don't like ripoffs. And in this case, the allegation is that rival hot dog company Red Hot Chicago, headed by a person who had ties to Vienna, either stole the 118-year-old recipe or is lying by telling customers that its hot dogs are the real thing.

According to the lawsuit, the man who runs the rival company was formerly employed as a sales manager, but left Vienna in 1983. He signed employment and severance agreements, which included a gag order about Vienna's secret recipes. Three years after leaving, he started the Red Hot Chicago hot dog company. The lawsuit claims that he wasn't successful over the first 25 years in competing, but recently changed recipes and pretended to be Vienna.

Intellectual property, the ideas, products and other assets designed by a business or individual, are the bloodline of a successful business. Another company infringing on those ideas, patents, software or other assets must be challenged and often it requires litigation.

People across the globe can identify the Nike swoosh and the McDonald's golden arches because of great marketing by those two companies. If another company, possibly a rival, began using those symbols, which have great power in identifying those companies, Nike and McDonald's would swoop in to protect their identities.

While it may seem silly to think of a company other than Nike or McDonald's trying to use those symbols, what if a smaller less-popular company had their design stolen? While it may be less recognizable, every company has customers and a public symbol, and it can do real damage to a business if someone else is using their ideas for profit.

It's possible that these issues can be decided by dispute resolution in Chicago, such as by assessing the merits of a potential claim, contacting the other party and trying to work out the issue without court intervention. While that may be the quickest and cheapest alternative, it's not always the most likely. So, taking the case to trial and putting the allegations out into the open may also be a way of getting rivals to do the right thing.

Jeremy A. Gibson & Associates represents clients in trademark infringement and business litigation in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. Call 877-452-4529 for a free consultation.

Additional resources:

Vienna has a hot dog beef with rival, by Gregory Karp, Chicago Tribune