How a Restaurant Trademark Battle Erupted Between a Las Vegas and Philly ‘Middle Child’

In a legal complaint, Philly’s lauded Middle Child restaurant alleges that an upcoming Vegas brunch spot is infringing on its trademark rights

Atrademark battle is heating up between two restaurant groups — one in Philadelphia, the other based in Las Vegas — that want to protect their right to use the restaurant name Middle Child.

The owners behind classic Las Vegas steakhouse Herbs and Rye are opening a new restaurant at 3900 Paradise Road called Middle Child. Located in the same strip mall as its sister restaurant Cleaver, the new restaurant already has a sign on the door — LED letters spelling out “Middle Child” in a wistful script. Now, the owners of a popular restaurant called Middle Child in Philadelphia have filed a complaint against them alleging “willful” trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The Las Vegas restaurant group, which, the complaint alleges, was formed as Infantry Group in 2022 before changing its name to “Middle Child Group, LLC” in 2023, has been developing Middle Child since at least September 2022 — when it filed a trademark application to register the Middle Child name. On the other side of the country, a hotshot sandwich restaurant has been operating under the name “Middle Child” since 2017. Philadelphia’s 16-seat luncheonette earned a ravenous following and rave reviews for its sandwiches like the Vietnamese-style “Phoagie” with hoisin eggplant and breakfast sandwiches filled with thick slabs of fluffy scrambled eggs. In 2021, owner Matt Cahn opened Middle Child Clubhouse about three miles away in Fishtown. The larger full-service restaurant and bar serves the brand’s sandwiches during the day and transitions to dinner and bar service in the evening.

On Monday, May 6, Middle Child, LLC — the Philadelphia group — filed a formal complaint against Middle Child Group, LLC — the Vegas team — alleging that the Las Vegas group has engaged in “willful and intentional infringement” of the Middle Child name and trademark. Although the older Middle Child in Philadelphia filed its formal trademark application later than the restaurant group opening Middle Child in Vegas, the complaint outlines that it had established common law rights to the trademark from its clear, consistent, and publicly recognized usage of the name and branding for its restaurants. The complaint states that the trademark rights for the “Middle Child” restaurant name should be “granted to the first to use a mark, and not the first to file a trademark application.”

“The issue here is consumer confusion,” Cahn told Eater Vegas on Tuesday, May 7. “That could slow me down or be a road bump towards future success and growing Middle Child.”

The complaint alleges that the Philadelphia Middle Child restaurants have already experienced “actual consumer confusion” from social media promotion surrounding Las Vegas’s forthcoming Middle Child. The Vegas team’s trademark application, filed in September 2022, has also complicated the Philadelphia group’s plans for expansion: The court filing indicates that the Philadelphia team plans to open locations in Austin, Texas, and Los Angeles, California, as well as an outpost in Philadelphia International Airport. The complaint requests that the Vegas group cease all use of the name “Middle Child,” and further seeks compensatory damages, an accounting and disgorgement of the Vegas team’s profits (meaning, if the suit is decided in favor of the Philadelphia team, the Vegas team must give up their profits unfairly gained by their use the mark), and reimbursement of its attorney fees related to the suit.

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