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Mediterranean restaurant cleared in trademark suit brought by competitor

A federal jury in Greenbelt has found a Mediterranean restaurant did not infringe on the trademark of a competitor, ending nearly three years of litigation between the businesses.

Rockville-based Cava Group Inc., which operates restaurants throughout Maryland and across the country, filed suit against Mezeh-Annapolis LLC, which operates as Mezeh Mediterranean Grill, claiming trademark infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair competition.

The complaint claimed Mezeh, a Virginia-based chain that opened its first restaurant in Annapolis in 2013 and now has six locations in Maryland and Virginia, was creating confusion through its name and the appearance of its restaurants. U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel dismissed the trade dress claim last year.

Sean T. Morris, Mezeh’s lawyer, said he argued to the jury during the three-day trial that Cava Group had built its brand around “Cava” and that Mezeh’s entrance into the market did not confuse customers.

“We have argued from the time this case was filed that Cava was Cava and Mezeh was Mezeh,” said Morris, of the Morris Law Firm LLC in Bethesda. “No one is confused or likely to be confused, and the jury agreed with that.”

The jury deliberated for approximately 90 minutes on Jan. 19 before returning a verdict in Mezeh’s favor, according to Morris.

“It’s been a long road but it’s gratifying when the system works,” he said.

Morris said his clients look forward to continue expanding now that the case has concluded.

“Being involved in litigation like this at the start of your company is very difficult and it makes it very difficult to grow so we are very thankful to have it behind us,” he said.

Cava Group was represented by Rockville solo practitioner William David Day and Frederick solo practitioner Matthew Scott Johnston. Day and Johnston could not be reached for comment.

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Cavamezze Grille LLC v. Mezeh-Annapolis LLC

Court: U.S. District Court in Greenbelt

Case No.: 8:14cv00355

Judge: George J. Hazel

Proceeding: Jury trial

Outcome: Verdict in favor of defendant

Dates:

Incident: Spring 2013

Suit filed: Feb. 5, 2014

Verdict: Jan. 19, 2017

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Rockville solo practitioner William David Day and Frederick solo practitioner Matthew Scott Johnston

Defendant’s Attorneys: Sean Morris of the Morris Law Firm LLC in Bethesda

Claims: Trademark infringement, unfair competition


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