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The City Is Suing St. Roch Market

It’s claiming trademark infringement over the ‘St. Roch Market’ name

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St. Roch Market
Yelp/Sarah E.

The St. Roch Market food hall expanded to Miami, FL in February 2018 — and the city of New Orleans wants all the money the Florida market has raked in so far, according to a lawsuit filed on April 3.

The city is suing the operators of the St. Roch Market over the “St. Roch Market” name, arguing that the operators of the modern, upscale food hall crossed a line when they trademarked the name and then used it for St. Roch Market Miami, Todd Price reports.

The city owns the physical St. Roch Market, which was a public market by that name starting in the 19th century. After spending $3.2 million in post-Katrina renovations, it leased the market to Bayou Secret, a company owned by Will Donaldson and Barre Tanguis, who turned the space into a glitzy food hall with a bar and several food vendors hawking everything from raw oysters and empanadas to complicated cocktails.

Donaldson and Tanguis formed a new umbrella company, Helpful Hound, and received a trademark for “St. Roch Market” under it in April 2017. In February 2018, they opened St. Roch Market Miami with plans to open more around the country with venture capital funding, according to the report.

The city says it’s been using the name St. Roch Market in commerce far longer. It’s asking that Helpful Hound be stripped of the “St. Roch Market” trademark, only be allowed to use the name at the New Orleans location, and be required to give all St. Roch Market Miami profits its earned under the St. Roch Market name to the city. It’s unclear what the city hopes to gain by not letting them use the St. Roch name elsewhere.

Liz Williams, lawyer and director of the National Food and Beverage Foundation, told Eater NOLA, that there are a number of complicated issues that need to be resolved by the court:

Clearly the city had use of the name already. It had been in use, but I don’t think the city had a trademark for it. If it had, the city could have just renewed it. The city is entitled to use the name in the city and the region — but having a St. Roch Market somewhere else, I don’t understand how it hurts the city unless they are worried about quality control.

The city hasn’t objected to Disney’s ‘French Quarter’ at Disney World. The question is what is to be gained. It is an interesting legal question as to whether there is an existing common law trademark that the city might own.

New Orleans once had one of the largest public market systems in the country. Of the 34 that once sprawled throughout the city, the French Market is the most famous.

Before the advent of the public markets, vendors sold goods from stalls along the levee or in the streets. Public markets gave the vendors protection from the elements and the city a way to more easily regulate the food sold in them. After World War II, people started moving to the suburbs, draining the customer base for the city’s public markets. Those still in the cities considered the markets archaic, until recently when the markets have seen a revival.

In addition to St. Roch Market and St. Roch Market Miami, Helpful Hound also opened the Auction House Market in the Warehouse District last month.

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