Wild Wing spoils for fight

“They made the first move, they hit me. I hit them back,” said Wild Wing founder Rick Smiciklas, who is also a boxing promoter.

January 17, 2011

Wild Wing spoils for fight
Firm launches suit
Adam Martin-Robbins


Wing wars. Wild Wing Restaurants founder Rick Smiciklas this week launched a lawsuit against American Buffalo Wild Wings, who have broken ground on their first Canadian location in Oshawa. Staff Photo/Nick Iwanyshyn

Aurora-based Wild Wing Restaurants has a bone to pick with rival American chain Buffalo Wild Wings over its name.

The Canadian chicken wing franchise launched a lawsuit Wednesday against the Minnesota company for trademark infringement.

The legal action comes nearly a week after Buffalo Wild Wings broke ground at its debut Canadian location in Oshawa.

“They made the first move, they hit me. I hit them back,” said Wild Wing founder Rick Smiciklas, who is also a boxing promoter.

The company’s statement of claim alleges the American trademarked brand name Buffalo Wild Wings is “confusingly similar” to Wild Wing and its use in Canada amounts to “passing off” contrary to the Trade-marks Act.

Mr. Smiciklas, who opened his first establishment in Sunderland in 1999, registered Wild Wing as a Canadian trademark in 2003. Buffalo Wild Wings has so far been unsuccessful in its applications to have its company name trademarked in Canada.

According to the statement of claim, Wild Wing is seeking damages “to be determined at trial” for trademark infringement as well as $1.5 million in punitive damages.

“It’s simple. I own a trademark, it’s trademark infringement, that’s it. I’m protecting my franchisees,” Mr. Smiciklas said. “I got no problem if they open, just operate under a different name. I own that trademark. You don’t call it Buffalo Burger King or Buffalo McDonald’s, and that’s it.”

The allegations contained in the statement of claim have not been tested in court.

Buffalo Wild Wings vice-president and associate general counsel Matt Brokl said in an e-mailed statement Friday that it has received notification of a suit from Wild Wing.

“We are working closely with all parties to come to a resolution quickly. During this process we are continuing to move forward with our Canadian expansion plans and are confident that we have the right to use the name and trademarks for Buffalo Wild Wings here in Canada,” Mr. Brokl said, adding that he believes there is room for many companies to co-exist together.

The chicken wing war took flight in August when Buffalo Wild Wings — which operates about 700 restaurants across the United States — announced its intentions to migrate north of the border and open 50 restaurants in Canada over the next five years.

That prompted Mr. Smiciklas, who has overseen the expansion of Wild Wing from a single restaurant to about 80 franchises, primarily in Southern Ontario, to file an application opposing the American chain’s Canadian trademark application.

Then, when Buffalo Wild Wings announced it was preparing to build in Oshawa and hired Wild Wing’s former director of operations, Robert Stewart, as its regional manager for Canada, the lawsuit was launched, Mr. Smiciklas said.

Mr. Brokl confirmed that Mr. Stewart will head up its Canadian operations and that he was not employed at the time Buffalo Wild Wings hired him.

“They knew about me for six years, then they come in dirty like that,” Mr. Smickilas said. “If they have a trademark, no problem. God bless them.”

Mr. Smiciklas said he intends to go ahead with plans to expand and hopes to have 120 franchises operating across the country by the end of the year.

“Honestly, not one minute of my day is wasted spending bad energy on these guys,” he said.


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