What do a Tex-Mex restaurant serving $4 fried mac and cheese and a Japanese restaurant serving $69 roasted lobster have in common? The answer, at least for the time being, is a name: Zuma is the name of both an upscale Japanese restaurant (part of an international chain) in the Four Seasons Hotel and a longtime casual spot for Tex-Mex in Faneuil Hall. (The latter trademarked its name way back in 2002.)
That may not be the case for much longer, however, because in a satisfyingly David-versus-Goliath result, a judge with the Suffolk Superior Court just ordered the London-based izakaya chain to cease and desist all use of the name Zuma for its Boston location. The Japanese restaurant’s parent company, Azumi Limited, reportedly violated the terms of a licensing agreement it entered with B.B. Kitchen, the Boston-based company that operates Zuma Tex-Mex Grill, in 2008. The agreement stated that Azumi Limited wouldn’t open any restaurants called Zuma in New England.
But fast forward to 2019: Zuma (the international chain) opened in the Four Seasons Hotel in May anyway, and chaos allegedly ensued. Zuma Tex-Mex Grill began “experiencing instances of actual confusion among members of the dining public” after the izakaya opened its doors, according to court documents cited by The Boston Globe.
This allegedly manifested in canceled and no-show reservations (read: lost revenues) for the smaller, older restaurant. Judge Brian A. Davis decided that the London-based company’s intrusion and violation resulted in irreparable damages for the Tex-Mex restaurant.
“B.B. Kitchen is a small, single location business that already is suffering from significant marketplace confusion and likely will continue to suffer so long as Azumi operates its Zuma Boston under the Zuma name,” Davis wrote in his decision. “Azumi, on the other hand, is an international operation with approximately $200 million in annual revenues.”
Davis ruled that Azumi Limited — which operates 11 other Zumas, including four in the United States — had the financial wherewithal to change the name of its Boston restaurant.
Stay tuned for updates on how Azumi Limited will go about implementing a Boston name change — or if it will appeal the decision.