In a court of law, “res ipsa loquitur” means “the thing speaks for itself.” But last year, the owners of Philadelphia’s Res Ipsa restaurant, which has quietly been renamed Res Ipsa Cafe, were accused of speaking for something other than their delicate pastas and renowned egg sandwiches.
Res Ipsa, an online retailer of handmade shoes and accessories based in Atlanta, sued the Philadelphia restaurant in federal court last August for trademark infringement. The case was dismissed in September after the restaurant agreed to use the name Res Ipsa Cafe going forward.
Tyler Akin, co-owner of Res Ipsa Cafe, declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing a confidentiality agreement. The restaurant, which opened in 2016 and was recently named one of the city’s top 25 restaurants by Inquirer critic Craig LaBan, has since added “cafe” to its website and social-media profiles.
It isn’t the first time a Philly restaurant has been caught up in a dispute over a name, though such conflicts have typically involved other local eating establishments. Two Chinatown restaurants named Dim Sum Garden, for example, were locked in a legal battle for more than a year before settling in 2015.
The lawsuit filed against the restaurant stated that “unauthorized use of the Res Ipsa mark has caused widespread confusion in the marketplace,” citing as one example a tweet in which a happy customer of Res Ipsa Cafe mistakenly praised the leisure goods company for its food: “If you live in Philly and haven’t had a breakfast sandwich at @resipsausa I don’t know what to tell you you’re doing it wrong.”
Res Ipsa’s Twitter account replied, “Thanks. Not bad for a company that doesn’t even make sandwiches …”
Joshua Moore, one of two Georgia attorneys who owns Res Ipsa, said in an e-mailed statement that the case was resolved to his satisfaction.
“When there is likely — or in this case actual — confusion in the marketplace, it is our responsibility to be vigilant about protecting our trademark,” he said. “Adding the word ‘cafe’ to the establishment’s branding makes such confusion less likely.”
The Latin phrase “res ipsa” comes from a doctrine that applies to cases in which facts are self-evident. Res Ipsa is owned by attorneys; Akin attended law school before entering the restaurant industry.
Founded in 2013, Res Ipsa sells loafers, canvas sneaker, s and boots, as well as backpacks, tote bags, belts and other accessories. A pair of men’s loafers retails for $245, up to $325 for a pair made of ostrich leather. Woven “weekender” bags are listed at $495. The products have been featured in numerous publications, including GQ and Atlanta Magazine.
According to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Atlanta, Res Ipsa was issued a trademark in late December 2016, a few weeks after the restaurant opened in Philadelphia.