Sizzling Legal Confusion?

On the front page of Friday’s Des Moines Register, columnist Abby Simons writes about a trademark infringement case based on our own Iowa Lottery.

It seems as though the lawyers from Sizzler International, the “high-brow” Sizzler steak restaurant chain, have sent a cease-and-desist request based on trademark infringement using the word “Sizzler” in Iowa Lottery’s “Hot Lotto Sizzler” game. Iowa Lottery, in an effort to quash the claim have decided to take the case through to a juried trial to claim they have all the rights to use the word.

Now, having been a private label graphic designer for the last 15 years, I understand the need for brand protection and clear trademark definition in the marketplace. But these items, a restaurant chain and a lottery game, don’t have even a minuscule chance of crossing paths in their respective markets. Of course, I’m no trademark lawyer (I’d call in Brett Trout for a more professional opinion on this), but (to my understanding) “trademark infringement” implies that there would be confusion in the market, due to a party impeding on an already established trademark or brand.

I don’t see it… I also can’t see the reason for the Lottery officials and their counsel to even take the cease-and-desist seriously.

Referenced in the article are also Hormel, due to their “Little Sizzler” sausages and rapper Miguel Collins, who goes by the stage name “Sizzla.” There wasn’t any reference to cease-and-desist orders being sent to them…

I simply can’t see why Sizzler International or the Iowa Lottery are even in discussion about this. What do you think? Would you EVER confuse the “Hot Lotto Sizzler” ticket and its subsequent marketing with any restaurant or other “sizzling” food product?

I’d call it food for thought… (sorry for the pun). Let me know what you think.

Keep Cooking!