The owners of Sushi Nozawa Group, which operates Sugarfish, Nozawa Bar, and KazuNori, are suing a Downtown Los Angeles Japanese hand roll bar for trademark infringement. The group argues that newcomer HRB, also known as The Hand Roll Bar Experience, is too close in name to the company’s own registered trademarks, and that the restaurant is using “its registered marks without permission and for the sole purpose of benefitting from [KazuNori’s] popularity and goodwill.”
Per the lawsuit, which is publicly available now: “Sushi Nozawa owns a family of marks, including... ‘The Original Hand Roll Bar’... Sushi Nozawa intends to maintain exclusive ownership of the registered marks and use them in connection with its products and services. Nevertheless, HRB has advertised a similar ‘hand roll bar’ experience and plans to operate two Los Angeles restaurants which specialize in sushi hand rolls.”
While the KazuNori team does not own a copyright (an intellectual piece of work), it does claim to own the trademark (the phrase/logo/slogan) “the original hand roll bar,” and they say that the HRB team knowingly modeled their own name after that trademark.
Per Jerry Greenberg, co-founder of Sushi Nozawa Group:
Sushi Nozawa Group created the concept of a sushi restaurant dedicated to hand rolls in the United States, and secured trademark protection for KazuNori and The Original Hand Roll Bar. Rather than using an original idea, HRB decided to copy KazuNori. We filed suit against HRB to protect our rights, and while the lawsuit is not over, so far the Court has agreed with our position. That said, we reached out to HRB directly to solve this issue on a business level before they opened, and believed we had an agreement that would not require litigation, but unfortunately HRB did not follow through on commitments made.
The HRB team also sent a statement after Eater’s initial publication, seen below:
This case is a classic example of a deep pocket business attempting to crush a newcomer in the industry because it is afraid of legitimate competition. HRB has not infringed any of Sushi Nozawa’s trademarks. Nor has the Court made any substantive rulings about the merits of Sushi Nozawa claims. In fact, the only “substantive” rulings thus far are two determinations from the United States Trademark Office which correctly denied Sushi Nozawa’s pending applications to register the “original hand roll bar” marks on the basis that the phrase “hand roll bar” cannot be monopolized by Sushi Nozawa. HRB looks forward to presenting this and other defenses to the Court and is confident that it will prevail on the merits.
The full lawsuit can be found here.