The Battle Royale Over Japonais

The big-box Japanese fusion restaurant Japonais currently has three locations around the country—Chicago, Las Vegas, and on East 18th Street in New York. One restaurant that is not part of the chain: the Japonais allegedly located in Westbury, Long Island. But if Roy Tuccillo, the owner of the new Long Island outpost gets his way, the three mega-restaurants around the U.S. will have to come up with a new name in the near future.

Tuccillo isn't a veteran restaurateur. He runs Anchor Frozen Foods, a seafood supplier on Long Island. But he's a rather devious entrepreneur. Nine months after the first Japonais opened in Chicago, Tuccillo went out and secured the trademark to the Japonais name—unbeknownst to Miae Lim, Rick Wahlstedt, and Jeffrey Beers, Japonais's owners—and even registered a logo that looks suspiciously similar to the one used by the now-national chain. Lim, Wahlstedt, and Beers later took Tuccillo when they realized what he'd done. But they didn't make much headway since a judge ruled that it wasn't entirely clear if Tuccillo had ripped the name off or merely come up with it on his own, and, besides, it really didn't matter since it wasn't as if Tuccillio was actually running a restaurant by the same name.

But now he is! In a lawsuit filed a couple of weeks ago, Tuccillo reports that his Japonais Restaurant & Lounge in Old Westbury opened in 2008, and since he had the name first, he should be allowed to keep it while the other restaurants should be forced to come up with something new (as well as pay him damages, of course). Ballsy move, eh?

It's isn't clear Tuccillo's rogue branch actually exists—no listing comes up in the local Westbury directory nor are there any reviews of it posted online. But we imagine lawyers for Lim, Wahlstedt, and Beers are now hard at work scouring the small town for any sign of its existence. Tuccillo's lawsuit is below.