The mass media giant Viacom is suing a small Houston investment company, unhappy that the business wants to name two yet-to-be-built restaurants "The Krusty Krab," after a restaurant in the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon.
Javier Ramos of IJR Capital Investments, in turn, says Viacom waited too long — it didn't make a 30-day deadline — to file its protest and that IJR has been awarded trademark rights to the name.
Ramos describes himself as a young guy who runs a small but successful investment company. He’s both surprised and nonplussed to be the target of Viacom's lawsuit. “Big companies just want to do what they can to the little guy,” said Ramos during a phone call.
Viacom is accusing IJR Capital Investments of infringement. IJR Capital Investments filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark The Krusty Krab as the name for a restaurant chain. The first location is under development in Los Angeles, and one is planned for Kemah as well. Ramos says his company is hoping to open the Kemah location by the end of 2016.
Ramos’s standpoint is that if Viacom intended to get into the restaurant business, it should have done so a long time ago — or at least trademarked the name. The series officially began airing on July 17, 1999. He says he has no intention of using any of the SpongeBob SquarePants characters, only the restaurant name.
There’s an existing restaurant called Salta Burger that actually does use the SpongeBob SquarePants characters. It’s in Palestine and is modeled after the same famous but imaginary restaurant under the sea. There’s a video online that shows kids and their parents enjoying the restaurant. The long arm of U.S. trademark law doesn’t reach across international waters. Every country has its own filing process that must be followed.
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Ramos provided the Houston Press with both the “cease and desist” letter from Andrew Hughes, Viacom’s corporate counsel, and his own attorney’s response. Those are both shown below. We’ve left a phone message for Hughes and will update this article if we receive a response.
Unless a settlement is reached, it will be up to a court to decide whether IJR is infringing on the SpongeBob SquarePants identity or if Viacom has waited too long for a chance to sell some official Krabby Patties of its own.