- September 14, 2016

Two Popular Austin Restaurants Fight Over Ass Trademark

In the tremulous wake of the Great and Terrible Texas Taco War between ATX and San Antonio, the Austin food scene has been rather quiet of late — until now.

Hip New-American eatery VOX Table has broken ground to build a new Mexican restaurant called El Burro at the Lamar Union Community Complex development. The selected site happens to be located just two miles from Burro Cheese Kitchen, a massively popular food trailer that serves gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches made with Balkan burro cheese.

As you might expect, BCK’s owner, Justin Burrows, feels frustrated by VOX’s use of the word “Burro,” especially since El Burro is slated to operate within such close proximity to BCK’s main location on South Congress Avenue.

Burrows sent VOX’s owner, Vincent Manguino, a cease-and-desist letter claiming that BCK owns the ass trademark under common law. This means that BCK has been using the Burro to represent their brand here long enough (three years) that they can legally claim a monopoly on it.

Manguino responded to Burrows amiably, explaining that the name holds special meaning to his business partner, Brent Oxley, the founder of HostGator. Get this — apparently a dedicated conservationist, Oxley says he owns the only surviving Nubian asses in the world and wants to use part of El Burro’s profits to support his herd.

Yes, you read that right. Nubian. Asses. These magnificent creatures are derived from African wild asses and they’re essentially the forefathers to modern donkeys. They’re not seen in the wild anymore, so scientists are pretty sure they’re mostly extinct. Got it?

Now, as far as we can tell, no one’s been able to confirm whether Oxley’s asses actually exist. Manguino invited Burrows out to the ranch to meet the beasts in question, but when Burrows continued to press VOX about trademark infringement and brand confusion, Manguino dropped out of contact.

Instead, according to Austin360, this went down:

Burro Cheese Kitchen asserts… [that] a person dressed in a donkey head costume appeared in front of the Burro Cheese Kitchen trailer on Sept. 4, holding a sign reading, “No cheese! Save the donkey.” According to court papers, the costumed person also passed out fliers accusing Burro Grilled Cheese of bullying El Burro and putting the raising of money for the care of Nubian asses in peril. The picketer also passed out a flier with a redacted version of Burro Cheese Kitchen’s cease-and-desist letter.

Naturally, Burrows filed a temporary restraining order against Manguino and VOX at the behest of his attorney, Kareem Hajjar, to temporarily block VOX from opening El Burro or from issuing any additional defamatory statements about BCK.

And of course, Manguino views the filing as straight up harassment — so, there’s some drama, but honestly, we keep coming back to Oxley’s Nubian asses. Are they even real? Just how big are they? Where is Sir Mix-a-Lot when you need him?

In the end, however, Hajjar says the burros don’t matter, at least not legally:

“The donkeys are not relevant to the matter at hand,” he told Austin360 in an email. “Both my client and I are animal lovers, but this issue doesn’t have anything to do with being an animal lover. It has to do with violation of a trademark. My client hopes that the infringing business is ultimately hugely successful, and if the donkeys do exist, that the proceeds benefit them. But, that business cannot be allowed to operate under the name ‘El Burro’.”

There’s no word yet on when additional legal proceedings will happen, so hang tight and do what you will with the facts provided. As for us, we’re still super excited about VOX’s ‘La Parkita’ cocktail, which you should try immediately, and we’re stoked that BCK plans to set up shop in Zilker Park for ACL 2016.


Featured photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons licensed