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Austin's Uchi restaurant wants other Uchis to change name

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

It's the case of Uchi versus Uchi.

The owners of Austin's Uchi, a popular restaurant on South Lamar Boulevard that serves Japanese food and sushi, have filed suit against the owner of three South Texas restaurants operating under the same name, alleging trademark infringement and injury to business, among other claims.

The court filing seeks to stop the South Texas restaurants from all uses of the Uchi name, including on websites, takeout menus and T-shirts, as well as advertisements. It also seeks unspecified monetary damages and reimbursement for court costs and attorneys' fees.

Uchi has been in business in Central Texas since 2003, according to the filing made in U.S. District Court in Brownsville, and the name was trademarked in 2009.

The suit alleges that the restaurants in Brownsville, Harlingen and on South Padre Island didn't start using the Uchi name until 2007. They operate as Uchi Japanese Restaurant, Uchi Express and Uchi Cuisine, according to court documents.

"The lawsuit in question is the culmination of several attempts over the years to end this situation amicably," said Daryl Kunik, a partner in the Austin Uchi restaurant.

"The entity that owns Uchi, Enso Limited, has a registered federal trademark for the use of 'Uchi' as a mark, and because the other party in this suit has consistently ignored our requests to cease and desist, we have finally decided to take action. We hope to resolve this matter quickly."

The person the lawsuit lists as owning the Brownsville, Harlingen and South Padre Island restaurants didn't respond to email, Facebook and telephone messages from the American-Statesman.

In the suit, owners of the Austin Uchi, considered one of the city's finer restaurants, claim the potential for confusion exists, with some consumers likely to believe the two entities are related.

Austin's Uchi has garnered a significant amount of attention in recent weeks. A second location opened in Houston last month, and Paul Qui, executive chef at sister restaurant Uchiko, is among the contestants on the Bravo network's "Top Chef" program this season. The show's finale is tonight.

gdinges@statesman.com; 912-5987