Family Beef: The Trademark Lawsuit Within The Hutchins BBQ Family

Hutchins BBQ has been serving up iconic smoked brisket, pork, and sausage at its Frisco and McKinney, Texas locations for over four decades. But tension has been slow cooking between members of the Hutchins family, and now brothers Tim and Trey Hutchins have sued their father Roy and brother Wesley for trademark infringement in the Eastern District of Texas.

The Family Business

Roy Hutchins opened Hutchins BBQ in 1978 and ran the business with his sons Trey and Wesley. Roy’s youngest son, Tim, took full control of the business in 2002 and continued operations with brother Trey. Ever since, Hutchins BBQ has increased in popularity and won numerous industry awards, including a spot in Texas Monthly’s revered “50 Best BBQ Joints in Texas” list.

Meanwhile, Roy and Wesley Hutchins have opened a new barbecue restaurant in Trophy Club, Texas, called “The Original Roy Hutchins Barbecue.” Roy and Wesley contend they have just as much right to use the family’s name for their restaurant. But in their lawsuit, Tim and Trey Hutchins contend Roy and Wesley are improperly using the Hutchins BBQ name, along with similar branding and logos, to intentionally copy and trade on Hutchins BBQ’s established trademarks and goodwill. They argue the new restaurant’s branding creates actual confusion in the marketplace, such as with an improper association made in a What Now Dallas article entitled “Hutchins BBQ Adding Trophy Club Spot.”

Restaurant Trademark Battles

The Hutchins feud is the latest noteworthy legal dispute between competing North Texas food brands. In June 2022, Carbone’s, the Dallas-based Italian restaurant that opened in 2012, brought trademark infringement claims against Carbone Dallas, which opened in March 2022. In 2019, the Fletcher family fought over the use of the family name when Fletcher’s Original Corny Dog sued the owners of a new family competitor called “Fletch.” The common theme of these food fights is the same: a business with an established brand name does not want the marketplace to confuse it with a competitor.

But having what you consider an established brand name does not guarantee legal protection—the name itself must be protectable as a trademark. In their lawsuit, Tim and Trey Hutchins argue they’ve continuously used “Hutchins BBQ” and “Hutchins Barbecue” in their business and advertising since at least 2002. They note the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office found “Hutchins Barbecue” has acquired secondary meaning, signifying longstanding use and marketplace recognition of their brand. And in January 2020, Tim Hutchins obtained trademark registrations for the Hutchins BBQ name and logo. While the Eastern District has yet to formally rule on whether Hutchins BBQ has protectable trademarks, Tim and Trey’s two-decade long use of the Hutchins name in the marketplace might force Roy and Wesley to find different branding for their new restaurant.

The Hutchins BBQ dispute is yet another example of the importance of trademarks in business, including in the restaurant industry. By securing a trademark, a restaurant can build and protect its brand identity, reputation, and commercial success.

If you are involved in a legal dispute concerning your business’s name, or if you need assistance registering your trademark, contact us to learn how we can help.

Griffith Barbee PLLC

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