|Argia B. Collins' Chicago Area Restaurant|
"Mumbo sauce" is sometimes used as the colloquial name for a tangy sauce served in Washington, D.C. restaurants and local eateries. However, a legal challenge to the validity of the name as a unique trademark appears to have been resolved in favor of the Windy City as the owner's locale.
The Washington Post describes the D.C. sauce's flavor as somewhere between barbecue and sweet-and-sour sauce. The sauce is also sometimes called "Mambo sauce." It is a versatile condiment that can be used for anything from fried rice to ribs or wings.
The Chicago Tribune reported in 2007 that Argia B. Collins, who died in 2005, and who had been one of Chicago's premier African American restauranteurs, first coined the term in the 1950's. Collins' heirs ultimately transferred the rights to the name to Select Brands, LLC.
According to the Select Brands' website: "A perfectionist when it came to his restaurants, Argia B. was not satisfied with the bland, watered-downed sauces served in other establishments or the tart, over-powering national brands sold by restaurant supply houses....Drawing on his southern roots, he wanted to create a sauce with the savory flavors reminiscent of the homemade Sunday dinners that he had enjoyed on his family's farm."
An image displayed on the Select Brands' website documents Collins' use of "Mumbo Bar-B-Q Sauce" in 3 flavors.
|Capital City's Mumbo Sauce|
In the 1990's, Select Brands LLC filed for a federal trademark on "MUMBO" for barbecue sauce in International Class 36, and it was granted.
Subsequently, a petition to cancel this trademark on the basis that it had become the "generic" name for a type of sauce was filed by Capital City, LLC, the makers of Capital City Mumbo Sauce, a D.C.-based company.
The petition cited printed materials taken from several different websites that showed a variety of sauces described as unauthorized "Mumbo sauces."
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board was not persuaded, however, finding that while this evidence showed "some generic use of the term 'Mumbo' in connection with sauces," that evidence consisted of printouts from only a few websites, and was not an overwhelming evidence of widespread generic usage.
Further, the Board seemed persuaded that Collins' heirs had undertaken serious efforts to police what they deemed as improper use of the trademark, and did not find the level of widespread and unrestricted usage necessary to deem a registered mark totally unworthy of protection. The Board refused to cancel Select Brands' trademark.
The federally registered Mumbo trademark will therefore remain owned by Select Brands LLC.
However, in the event that Select sues Capital or the other unauthorized Mumbo sauce users for trademark infringement, the jury and judge would get the final say in the matter, as genericness as well as lack of likely confusion can be used as complete defenses in an infringement case in court.