Friday, May 2, 2014

Local David vs. Goliath – The NFL Takes On Phil’s Grill

As the news media waits on baited breath for the next insensitive statement from NBA Billionaire owner Donald Sterling, another group of Billionaires who own sports teams are going after a Jefferson Parish small businessman.

For years, consumers flocked to Phil’s Grill on Severn in Metairie for custom burgers that are built to the customer’s specifications. Business was so good that owner Phil de Gruy opened up a second JP location in Harahan and, several months back, opened his first New Orleans location on Camp Street.

In addition to serving great burgers (and awesome Fried Pickles by the way), Phil has always given back to the community. He calls it “PHILantrophy” and Phil’s Grill was just honored for the 5th time by the National Restaurant Association as a Louisiana Good Neighbor Restaurant for their community work.  Each year, in May, Phil’s holds “Burger Palooza”, where celebrity burgers can be purchased and proceeds are distributed to charity.

A couple of years back, Phil started a similar promotion in the Fall tied to Saints games. “The Burger Bowl” featured a weekly burger patterned after whomever the Saints opponent was that Sunday. Burgers ranged from “The Carolina Prancer Burger” (A spicy pork burger, with Carolina BBQ sauce, coleslaw, tomato and Swiss cheese on an onion bun – I kinda wish I could have one right now) to Phil’s version of a Buffalo, NY staple, “Beef on Weck” when the Saints took on the Bills. 

Last year, proceeds from the sale of the “Burger Bowl” entrants went to the Team Gleason Foundation to support the battle against ALS and in a prior year, the proceeds went to Bonnabel High School’s Pro-Start program which trains students in the culinary arts and restaurant management.

Well, now it seems that the NFL (who some refer to as the “No Fun League”), has an issue with the “Burger Bowl” and the awarding of the “Lom-Burger Trophy” .

Despite filing pending trademark applications for the “Burger Bowl” and the “Lom-Burger Trophy” design, which is good-naturedly patterned after the “Lombardi Trophy”, given to the Super Bowl winner, the NFL is trying to stop Phil’s Grill.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter that NFL attorneys sent  to Phil’s attorney:

"We are concerned that, because our marks and your client's applied-for mark are similar, it may cause the public to mistakenly believe that your client's goods and/or services are authorized or sponsored by or are somehow affiliated with the NFL or its Member Clubs. Moreover, such use could cause dilution of our famous mark, and otherwise negatively impact our rights, including through trademark infringement, unfair competition and misappropriation. Accordingly, we would like to better understand how your client intends use the PHIL'S GRILL BURGER BOWL mark…"


I don’t know about you but I don’t think I would mistake the real “Lombardi Trophy” for a trophy that was a pyramid with Phil’s portrait on it and topped by a hamburger, even if such a “Lom-Burger Trophy” actually existed.

You see, the “Lom-Burger Trophy” is only used on t-shirts and plastic cups (which are used to promote the “Burger Bowl” and raise even more money for a former Saints’ charity).

Here’s hoping that the NFL realizes the foolishness of their actions and let’s a JP businessman continue making great burgers and giving back to the community.