A battle between Maryland restaurants over the name of their signature crab cakes was over almost as quickly as it began.
In one corner was Jerry’s Seafood in Bowie, which has advertised itself as the “home of the Crab Bomb,” described as “ten ounces of jumbo lump crab, lightly seasoned with Old Bay and baked to a golden brown perfection.”
In the other corner, more than 100 miles away in Ocean City, there was the Crabcake Factory, home of “OC’s Original Crabcake Bomb,” served at a number of its locations.
Jerry’s filed a federal lawsuit against the Crabcake Factory on Tuesday, claiming trademark infringement over the “Crab Bomb” name.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the Crabcake Factory’s owner, Johnny Brooks, said in an email to The Baltimore Sun that the restaurant has changed the name of its Crabcake Bomb after receiving emails from Jerry’s.
“We were not aware of a lawsuit nor were we aware of the trademark prior to an email sent to us,” said Brooks, who was unavailable for further comment Wednesday.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore said Jerry’s Seafood trademarked the “Crab Bomb” name 24 years ago and that the Crabcake Factory has been using it without permission. The lawsuit sought a jury trial.
“The Crabcake Factory is clearly aware of Jerry’s Seafood and its valuable trademark,” the suit states. “The Crabcake Factory has attempted to capitalize on Jerry’s Seafood’s valuable reputation and customer goodwill.”
No one from Jerry’s Seafood responded to requests for comment Wednesday. Patrick R. Buckler, an attorney representing Jerry’s Seafood, said he does not comment on pending litigation.
The Crabcake Factory’s website boasts its “World Famous Crabcakes,” and says it has sold more than 2 million of them since it opened its first Ocean City locations in 1996. On Wednesday night, a menu online still highlighted “OC’s Original Crabcake Bomb” as a “Massive Half Pound Crabcake.”
The lawsuit also notes that the Crabcake Factory menu includes items such as “The Crab Bomb,” and “Crabcake Bomb.”
James B. Astrachan, a Baltimore intellectual property lawyer, said a court has several factors it must weigh to determine if there is trademark infringement, including how distinctive the name is, how similar are the types of services of the two companies, and the amount of time that has passed during which both companies have been using the same name.
The most important factor, he said, is whether customers will confuse the two businesses. “You just have to show it is likely to show confusion,” Astrachan said.
He noted some restaurants with similar names have been permitted in different cities because they serve entirely different customers. But because Ocean City could be considered a travel destination for customers of Jerry’s in Bowie, Astrachan said, Jerry’s could argue that customers could become confused.
Both business have earned high marks for their crab cakes.
Coastal Living magazine named the Crabcake Factory “home of some of the best crab cakes on any coast.”
In a 2009 review of local crab cakes, The Washington Post named Jerry’s as one of the go-to places for the item. “The marble-size chunks [of crab] are ... tossed with a touch of mayonnaise and Old Bay, not a bread crumb in sight. The result is a seemingly impossible but awe-inspiring combination of delicacy and all-American satisfaction,” the review said.