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Food fight: Dallas Italian restaurant sues newly-arrived competitor over similar name

A complaint filed by lawyers of the Carbone's restaurant claims newcomer Carbone tricks people into coming to their restaurant and buying their pre-packaged sauces.
Credit: Screenshot of Carbone's website
A screenshot from Carbone's website, attached in their lawsuit against Carbone.

DALLAS — A legal food fight is underway in Dallas.

The Italian restaurant Carbone's Fine Food and Wine LLC is suing Carbone LLC in federal court in Dallas, alleging trademark infringement and saying their similar name is causing confusion among customers.

The lawsuit stems from the new arrival of Carbone, also an Italian restaurant but originally from New York, in Dallas in March.

Major Food Group, the owners of Carbone, has not responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday.

The lawsuit said the name "Carbone's" has been used consistently since 2011 when the Dallas restaurant's founder, executive chef Julian Barsotti, started the process to open the restaurant. 

Carbone's officially opened for business on Oak Lawn Avenue in April 2012, according to the company's complaint.

"For years, whenever consumers have seen the CARBONE’S mark either in the restaurant, on pre-packaged foods, or via carryout and catering, they have recognized the CARBONE’S mark as an indicator of the high quality that consumers have come to expect from Plaintiff," attorneys for Carbone's wrote in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit says the newly-arrived Carbone was first opened in New York in 2013. The New York-based Carbone is the namesake of the chef and co-owner, Mario Carbone. 

Carbone, which also has locations in Miami, Las Vegas and Hong Kong, opened their Dallas location in March on Hi Line Drive in the Design District, about two miles from Carbone's.

The complaint filed by Carbone's said people have been confusing the two before Carbone even opened in Dallas. In the lawsuit, lawyers included examples from The Dallas Morning News stories that pointed out the two locations being different restaurants. 

They also listed a Yelp review from a customer who said he booked a reservation at Carbone's thinking it was Carbone.

On top of that, Carbone's kept a list of calls from people that were trying to contact Carbone. According to them, they received over 20 calls of confusion on March 30, 2022.

Lawyers for Carbone's also claim the owners of Carbone purposely tried to confuse customers into buying their prepackaged sauces. According to the lawsuit, Carbone uses Carbone's trademark and makes their prices similar to Carbone's prices. That way, customers don't pay much attention and buy the Carbone sauces instead, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said even a Carbone's investor got confused with a large display of pasta sauces at a grocery store. She took a picture of the display, showing Carbone sauces with a Carbone's sign on top and on the side.

Carbone's chef had to confirm that the sauces were from Carbone, but had the marks & logos of Carbone's, the lawsuit said.

"By using a nearly identical mark (Carbone’s v Carbone) in association with the same goods and services (Italian restaurants and pre-packaged foods), consumers are and will be confused, misled, or deceived as to the source of the goods and services," the lawsuit said.

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