The owners of a small, not-yet-open deli on Grassy Key are firing back at a national surf shop giant based in Cocoa Beach suing them for stealing its trademarked logo.
Ron Jon Surf Shop of Florida, Inc. accuses Grassy Key Outpost, a deli, market and grill at Mile Marker 58 of illegally using its mark and logos in the 22-page lawsuit filed Aug. 2 in federal court.
Grassy Key Outpost's owners removed their sign on Aug. 5, but refused to sign paperwork put forth by Ron Jon Surf Shop demanding they refrain from using orange color and certain fonts in their future signs, said Grassy Key Outpost owners and defendants James V. Mooney and John A. Santaniello.
"They asked us to sign paperwork admitting our wrongdoing and that Ron Jon must approve our future signs," Santaniello said.
Mooney and Santaniello were willing to eat the cost of their new signs when the lawsuit first surfaced, but now they say they are willing to fight it to protect their business in light of Ron Jon's demands.
"If I was selling surfboards and bathing suits, I would be inclined to listen to them, but we're selling hamburgers and now they're telling us what colors we can and can't use -- come on," Mooney said.
The company states the smaller business has "not ceased using the infringing marks" even after they sent demand letters, according to the lawsuit.
"Moreover, defendants proceeded to install a large sign with the infringing mark on its restaurant in Grassy Key" as well as a "confusing similar" electric marquee sign, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit lists 12 different trademarked logos used by Ron Jon Surf Shop in its principle surfwear businesses and in its resorts and restaurants that are located throughout the country, but clustered mostly in Florida. One store is in Key West at 503 Front St.
Each of the 12 slightly different logos, however, are housed in the same elliptical shield, which they refer to the "Ron Jon Shield House Mark" in the lawsuit.
Ron Jon argues its logo is distinct and customers recognize their shield logo as a "famous" mark relating to their stores, according to the lawsuit.
"In an effort to avoid filing this lawsuit, Ron Jon Surf Shop made numerous attempts to find an amicable solution with Grassy Key, but to no avail," said Ron Jon spokesman Ryan Julison. "We protect our brand and trademark in the same manner regardless of whether a large corporation, small business or even individual infringes."
Both Mooney and Santaniello expressed frustration at the mounting costs of having to redesign their signs and pay for lawyers to fight a federal lawsuit, but mostly they said they're confused by the lawsuit.
"I don't think they want to put us out of business, but at the same time I don't understand what they have to fear," Santaniello said.
The Grassy Key Outpost, 58152 Overseas Highway, at Mile Marker 58, is slated to open in November, the owners said.
"I see this as an attack on my right to fair trade and I get the feeling they're not going to like the publicity they're going to get," Mooney said. "I think they made a mistake."