If this sign for Burger King looks a little off, that's because it doesn't belong to "Burger King," the huge fast-food chain known for the Whopper.
This is the original Burger King, in Mattoon, Ill., which opened in 1957. Its name was registered as a trademark in Illinois a couple of years later by owners Gene and Betty Hoots.
When a national company began opening a chain of Burger Kings across the U.S., the Hootses sued — and won. But only in Illinois. The case is a famous precedent in trademark law.
The ruling prevents Burger King from opening any competing store with a 20 mile radius of the original in Mattoon.
This search result for "Burger King Mattoon" links to the wrong restaurant site.
Burger King the chain has gone to some lengths to ignore Burger King of Mattoon. If you do a Google search for "Burger King Mattoon," the results show a link that goes to Burger King the corporation's homepage, even though it is labeled with a Google map of the Mattoon location.
The Hoots seem to have a sense of humor about their role in intellectual property jurisprudence. They sell a menu item called the Hooter Burger, a play on the family name. The better-known restaurant chain that goes by the name Hooters has chosen to ignore them.
Here's George ...
And here's Gene ...
And here's the restaurant ...
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