Dickey’s Barbecue Pit built its 75th anniversary promotional material around creative imagery that it misappropriated from a Boise business, according to a lawsuit filed by the owner of BBQ4Life.
Brad Taylor’s attorneys filed the lawsuit against the Texas-based national barbecue chain in U.S. District Court Wednesday. It alleges “a multi-layered Russian Nesting Doll of infringement” and seeks damages in an amount to be determined at trial.
“We are going to attempt to resolve this without [protracted] litigation,” BBQ4Life attorney Thomas J. Lloyd III said Thursday. Boise attorney Patrick C. Bageant is also representing Taylor in the lawsuit.
The 19-page lawsuit says Dickey’s rolled out its 75th anniversary campaign in October of 2016, featuring “cartoon-style words and images.”
“The compilation is not a creative masterpiece, however; it is a copy-and-paste job of trademarks and copyrights Dickey’s stole from at least four smaller businesses and individuals,” the suit says. It further accuses Dickey’s of copying “the trademarks, copyrights and very likeness of Boise’s Brad Taylor.”
The campaign created confusion for BBQ4Life’s customers, the suit says, and Taylor began hearing about it in January of 2017. He says he complained to the company in March. In December, he visited a local Dickey’s restaurant.
“Dickey’s own employee looked at Mr. Taylor and asked, ‘Why are you on our cups? Do you work with our company?” the suit says.
The suit says Dickey’s made some minor alterations to Taylor’s bearded and sunglasses-wearing face and tattooed fists, including adding the trademarked name of a barbecue rub, Hardcore Carnivore, and using a copyrighted font (Tatoo [sic] Sailor) made by designer/owner Juan Casco.
In early February, Taylor went public on his Facebook page with his beefs about Dickey’s marketing materials.
“I guess they know there is nothing I can really do about them using my logo and image so they are just running with it,” Taylor wrote in the Feb. 4 Facebook post, with side-by-side images of a Dickey’s takeout bag and a photo of him showing his BBQ4Life tattoo on the knuckles of his clenched fists. “Thanks for all the free advertising!”
Local media, including the Statesman, picked up the story. About a week later, Dickey’s announced that it would stop using the takeout bags with the disputed imagery in “the Boise market and beyond.”
“At Dickey’s, our franchisees are local business owners and we consider them a part of our extended family,” the company said in a written statement. “As such, we support and respect other hard working local business owners who are passionate about great barbecue. Dickey’s believes in authentic barbecue and healthy competition, and never intended to cause confusion nor upset within the barbecue community.”
Taylor said he’s not suing to get rich.
“It’s really more about the principle of it all,” he said. “When you’re the little guy, you’re just fighting to keep your business alive.”
BBQ4Life is celebrating its fifth anniversary this week, he said. The business has been at the current location, 930 S. Vista Ave., about four years. It’s open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.