Kevin McCarney, founder and president of Poquito Más: The Original Taco Stand in Los Angeles, prides himself on the quality of his food and so he's not happy that, in his view, fast-food giant Taco Bell illegally stole his "más" theme for its own advertising campaign.
McCarney claims Irvine-based Taco Bell officials sought permission in early 2012 to use his federally-registered "Más" trademarks, but he declined because he didn't want to harm his company's reputation, according to an ongoing lawsuit in Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
Despite the rejection, Taco Bell officials nevertheless launched their "Live Más" (or, in English, "live more") advertising campaign in television, Internet and newspaper ads.
"[Taco Bell's] acts are deliberate and intended to confuse the public [as well as to] injure plaintiff and reap the benefit of plaintiff's goodwill associated with the Más marks," according to Brent H. Blakely and Cindy Chan, Manhattan Beach-based lawyers for Poquito Más and McCarney.
The plaintiff wants U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter to issue an injunction against Taco Bell and seeks monetary damages for the alleged trademark violations.
According to federal records, McCarney's Poquito Más Licensing Corporation owns trademarks including "Poquito Más," "Mucho Más," "Chef Más," "The Más," and, its early 2013 registration, "Get Poquito Más Out of Life"–all complete with the accent mark, of course.
However, Taco Bell's lawyer–Sean M. Sullivan at Davis Wright Tremaine in Los Angeles–denies any legal violations and notes his client owns the trademarks for "Live Más" and "Taco Bell Live Más," and uses the phrase "Sometimes You Gotta Live Más."
[Disclosure: Davis Wright Tremaine served as OC Weekly's retained legal counsel for many years.]
According to Sullivan, his client is the victim in the dispute. Taco Bell executives required Poquito Más officials to sign a January 2012 nondisclosure contract before they shared plans for the "Live Más" campaign, won the agreement and then saw Poquito Más violate the deal by "immediately" launching an advertising campaign with the phrase "Get Poquito Más Out of Life."
The violation of the nondisclosure contract terms means Poquito Más should pay Taco Bell for damages, according to Sullivan.
If mediation fails, Judge Carter has scheduled a February 2, 2015, trial in Santa Ana.
Poquito Más, established in 1984 in Studio City, runs 11 restaurants and Taco Bell has nearly 6,000 outlets.