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Vancouver restaurateur probably didn’t consult with a business startup attorney in Las Vegas, NV before opening up his own version of the Bellaggio

September 4, 2014

It’s always a spot of bother when you’re just trying to get good crepes out of the kitchen and onto the table when a cease-and-desist order arrives on the steps of your restaurant. That’s what happened to Emil Malak, who owns cafés in Coal Harbour and near the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia. It probably wasn’t on his mind when he opened his adorable street-side wine bars to consult with a business startup attorney in Las Vegas, Nevada; after all, Malak’s interests are presumably much more local than international. But now he’s probably wondering whether it wouldn’t have been a good idea. The charming Bellaggio Cafés are under fire from the Las Vegas casino with a slightly differently spelled name, but Malak is hopeful that the odds are in his favor.

When the cease-and-desist order showed up, Malak may have been regretting his choice not to go with advice from a business startup attorney in Las Vegas, NV but he sure didn’t show it. Coolly setting down his crepes (or glasses of wine, or whatever slice of deliciousness he was serving—the cafés have a great reputation for taste), Malak met the legal challenge eye-to-eye. Despite the fact that Mirage Resorts, Inc. claims that it “owns the Canadian trademark registration and Canadian trademark application for the Bellagio mark in connection with hotel, casino and restaurant services,” Malak believes the law may be on his side, after all.

Even in the face of the big guys (the Las Vegas Bellagio bullies) bringing out the big guns—the order alleges that Malak’s restaurant is likely to “confuse consumers as to the source of its services or as to some affiliation, connection, endorsement or relationship between the Bellaggio Restaurant’s services and the goods and services Bellagio offers under its Bellagio marks,” and demanded that Malak take down his signs and online marking materials in two weeks’ time, Malak is standing his ground.

Pretty confident that the Las Vegas Bellagio won’t succeed in stripping him of the names of his little eateries, Malak muses that he “incorporated his company in B.C. in 1999” without any planning counsel from a business startup attorney in Las Vegas, NV: so why now, “after being in business for more than 15 years, Bellagio has decided to go after him,” is curious indeed. Malak casually dismisses the cease-and-desist order as “the big boys having a go,” pointing to the fact that he spells the name of his restaurants differently and that he’s “not in the gambling-casino business. How can I be competing with Bellagio Vegas?” he asks.

But while Malak and his Vancouver lawyer might be calling Mirage Resorts, Inc.’s infringement claim “frivolous,” a business startup attorney in Las Vegas, NV wouldn’t be too sure. The Vegas hotels and casinos can be a pretty powerful legal enemy, and are known to be protective about their trademarks. Meanwhile, the Bellaggio Restaurants’ trademarks and their applications “are still being examined by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office,” and until he hears otherwise from them, it’s crepes and wine and whatever else is tasty served up in-house—business as usual—for Emil Malak in Vancouver.

 

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