Al Johnson’s Restaurant Victory At The Supreme Court


When I lived in Door County I thought the scene rather unique with goats on top of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant.  I often took friends to see the goats and was amused that everyone wanted a picture.  However, to make sure that no one else has goats on restaurant roofs the Johnson’s obtained a trademark.  That made news and legal woes for other restaurants.

Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant has always known how to get what it wants.  They proved that when they were able to lure then-Governor Tommy Thompson to their establishment for a ‘re-opening.’  Representative Lary Swoboda was there too, as was this blogger who was then working with the local Democrat.  There were also enough Green Bay news crews on hand to make one think Elvis was inside the restaurant having a waffle. (Or a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.)

While working with Swoboda I can assure all that Al Johnson’s phone calls were expected to be responded to at once.  Truth is of course they were not.  Those who expect others to jump rarely get rewarded.   But when you have goats on the roof you just expect a higher level of service from everyone.

Including the Supreme Court.

Al Johnson’s Swedish restaurant has been a popular attraction for anyone traveling to Door County for its grass-covered roof and its herd of grass trimmers.

But a lawsuit by a New York attorney against Al Johnson’s sought to cancel the “Goats on a roof of grass” trademark owned by the well-known restaurant in Sister Bay.

That years-long petition has been denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court’s decision not to hear the case has ended the debate.

A federal circuit court ruled Bank didn’t have any standing to bring the lawsuit, since he didn’t have a legitimate commercial interest, such as a competing trademark, and he didn’t suffer any damages from the claimed “disparaging remarks” about goats.

That court also ordered Bank to pay costs and attorneys fees to Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant for bringing a frivolous lawsuit, pointing out that Bank petitioned the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board three times — which were all dismissed for lack of standing — then appealed to federal court making the same arguments.

With the Supreme Court’s decision, the “goats on a roof of grass” will continue to graze.

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