Jehangir Mehta, the chef and owner of longtime East Village restaurant Graffiti and Tribeca newcomer Mehtaphor is suing uptown rival chef Jesus Nunez of new restaurant Graffit for copyright infringement, arguing that the two month-old restaurant with a very similar name and concept is actively poaching customers. They both serve experimental, small plates cuisine, but he cites Nunez's use of the candy Pop Rocks in a dish—which Mehta calls his signature ingredient—as the ironclad evidence that his place is a rip off. Mehta, the runner up on The Next Iron Chef, says that he recently learned "that defendants also planned to utilize this extremely obscure ingredient in a dish to be served at Graffit."
This is not the first case where a restaurant claims copyright infringement based on a name. Restaurateur Marc Forgione had to change the name of his restaurant from Forge to Marc Forgione after Forge restaurant in Miami sued—and those restaurants weren't even alike. Using Pop Rocks as the clincher, however, is probably a first.
Update: A comment from Nunez's PR: "While I can't comment on his claim that the names of the restaurants are too similar, the whole idea that Nunez is using or ever has used pop rocks on his menu is totally false."
Update: Mehta's PR would like to mention that Pop Rocks aren't really the point. The point is that it's almost the same name, and a similar type of cuisine, and it causes customer confusion.
· Restaurant suit over 'Pop Rocks' dish [NYP]
· All Coverage of Jehangir Mehta [~ENY~]