Bevo's Grill feeding off UT's fame, lawsuit says

University wants eatery to change, name, remove sign with Longhorn logo

By Erik Rodriguez and Steven Kreytak
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Now you've seen everything: The University of Texas is suing Bevo.

The UT System has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Bevo's Grill in North Austin, saying the self-proclaimed maker of homestyle food is committing copyright infringement by naming itself after UT's 2,000-pound mascot and by displaying the school's trademarked Longhorn logo.

The restaurant's owners, Sam and Debbie Mansoor, say it's an unfortunate coincidence that they can't afford to change.

The suit, filed by the UT System on behalf of UT-Austin against the Mansoors' company, Bevo Inc., calls for immediate removal of the signage at the restaurant, at 6801 N. Interstate 35. It also seeks unspecified damages, including lawyers' fees and any of Bevo's profits that resulted from the infringement.

At issue is the name Bevo, which UT has copyrighted, and the famous Longhorn silhouette that dots UT apparel, souvenirs and countless other items related to the university. The suit says the storefront sign for Bevo's Grill, which features both, leads customers to believe that the restaurant is affiliated with UT.

"Defendant's unauthorized use of the marks . . . enables it to trade on and receive the benefit of goodwill built up at great labor and expense over many years by UT," the lawsuit states.

Debbie Mansoor said the restaurant has nothing to do with UT and that the name comes from early plans to create an Italian restaurant called Bevos and Mangiar, which roughly translates to Drinks and Food in Italian. (The word for drink is bevanda.)

They later shortened the name to Bevo's, changed the fare to homestyle and opened the restaurant in May, she said.

The Mansoors, who first considered a bluebonnet, the official state flower, before choosing a royal blue Longhorn for their sign, also checked with UT to see if any problems would arise but received little help, Debbie Mansoor said.

"We are not into athletics. We are not a university. We are not going to say it's our mascot," she said. "We should be able to go ahead and still use our name."

That argument is a bum steer, said Mike Godfrey, UT System general counsel.

"They have a Longhorn as an apostrophe in their name," said Godfrey, who noted that university officials made several cease-and-desist demands before resorting to the lawsuit. "I think it belies the idea that somehow they have innocently stumbled upon this as a name for their restaurant."

Mansoor, who has yet to hire a lawyer, said she can't afford to fight UT but also is reluctant to take down the sign, which cost $20,000.

"We're open to changing how the Longhorn looks," she said. "We can't change everything from one day to the next."

erodriguez@statesman.com; 445-3673