Faced with lawsuit, Brunswick’s Tao Restaurant will change name

Tao Restaurant owners John, Cecile and Cara Stadler stand in their Brunswick establishment.
Dylan Martin | The Forecaster
Tao Restaurant owners John, Cecile and Cara Stadler stand in their Brunswick establishment.
Posted May 29, 2013, at 9:06 p.m.
Last modified May 31, 2013, at 6:50 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Brunswick’s Tao Restaurant will change its name to Tao Yuan under terms of a settlement with a national restaurant chain that sued for trademark infringement.

Cecile Stadler of Phippsburg, who co-owns the popular Asian restaurant on Pleasant Street with her husband, John Stadler, and daughter Cara Stadler, said that the family agreed to settle with Delaware-based restaurant chain TAO Licensing LLC last week despite what she called “a very strong case.”

Neither Cecile Stadler nor New York-based attorney Howard Shire of Kenyon and Kenyon LLP, who represented Tao Restaurant, would comment on a financial settlement.

Cecile Stadler said the family settled because the suit was becoming a distraction.

“We just wanted to get on with the business of running the restaurant,” she said. “All the depositions were being scheduled at the height of ramping up for our summer season. It would have involved time and money to proceed with the case. We were actually pretty confident we would win, but at the same time, it wasn’t worth it.”

In October, Delaware-based restaurant chain TAO Licensing filed suit claiming that Tao Restaurant, which has been open a year, was illegally using the “Tao” name.

The chain demanded unspecified financial compensation from the Brunswick restaurant for damages and legal fees in addition to a court order requiring the restaurant stop using the word “Tao” on its website.

TAO Licensing began operations in 2000 after receiving trademark licenses for the use of the all-uppercase word “TAO.”

“Defendants’ use of the names ‘TAO’ and ‘TAO Maine’ for their Asian restaurant is an effort to free-ride on the enormous goodwill established by plaintiff’s well-known and famous TAO venues,” reads the complaint.

The suit called for destruction of all materials associated with the Brunswick restaurant bearing the word Tao, as well as ownership of the www.tao-Maine.com domain name.

In October, Stadler told the Bangor Daily News that the name of her restaurant comes from a Chinese fable about a utopia found in a peach tree grove, unlike TAO Licensing.

“Our name is a different meaning, a different origin and a different word in Chinese,” Sadler said at the time. “We’re a little surprised all of this has happened. Nobody is going to be confused with our restaurant and theirs in New York and Las Vegas.”

Along with changing the name, the Stadlers must change the restaurant’s signs, website, menus and logo.

The owner said she is relieved the case is settled and looks forward to a planned expansion, including a greenhouse with aquaponics to grow vegetables.

“We’re actually really excited about that,” she said.

 

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story said that a court ordered Tao to stop using this name on its website. There was no court order, although the restaurant chain did ask for such an order in its lawsuit.

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