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El Pollo Loco trademark dispute closer to trial

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for next month before a U.S. District Court judge in an ongoing trademark dispute between the 400-unit El Pollo Loco quick-service chain and the operator of a restaurant in Minneapolis once known as El Pollo Loco De Los Santos.

The conference follows the filing of the lawsuit by Costa Mesa, Calif.-based El Pollo Loco Inc. on July 12 charging the Minneapolis restaurant with trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.

According to court documents, El Pollo Loco sent a cease-and-desist letter to El Pollo Loco De Los Santos in 2008, saying the flame-grilled chicken chain had claimed rights to the name and that it might pursue expansion opportunities in Minneapolis.

At the time, El Pollo Loco De Los Santos responded by saying the restaurant was up for sale and the name would be changed by the new owner, according to the complaint.

El Pollo Loco, however, charged that the Minneapolis restaurant continues to be owned by the same operator, and that the eatery still uses “El Pollo Loco” in its name. The restaurant’s owner is reportedly Angel De Los Santos Garcia.

Since 2007, the Minneapolis restaurant has drawn press attention after being cited with numerous health code violations, including obtaining food from unapproved sources and allowing chicken to thaw on the floor. Though Garcia agreed to take corrective action, the California-based El Pollo Loco chain began getting calls about the violations, indicating there was confusion about the name.

In an Aug. 12 court filing, the Minneapolis restaurant operator denied the allegations, saying the restaurant’s name was changed in 2008 to “El Pollo De Los Santos,” dropping the word “Loco.”

Julie Weeks, a spokeswoman for El Pollo Loco, said the company could not comment on pending litigation. Garcia could not be reached and calls to his attorneys were not returned by press time.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

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