State College

What’s in a name? Rathskeller owners file lawsuit for trademark infringement

The former All-American Rathskeller was renamed Doggie's Rathskeller and Garden.
The former All-American Rathskeller was renamed Doggie's Rathskeller and Garden. Centre Daily Times, file

Doggie’s Rathskeller and Garden was announced as the name of the bar at 108 S. Pugh Street, but the former tenants and owners of the All-American Rathskeller filed a lawsuit on Friday alleging trademark infringement.

Doggie’s owners Tom and Kelley Trosko took over the space that was home to Pennsylvania’s longest continually-operating bar on March 1. They opened their doors for a four-day preview during Arts Fest and plan on having limited weekend hours throughout the summer.

Doggies 1.jpg
Tom Trosko works to reinstall booths in Doggie's Rathskeller and Garden before opening for a preview during Arts Fest weekend. Abby Drey Centre Daily Times, file

The lawsuit filed by Rathskeller owner Duke Gastiger said the Troskos opened a “copycat bar” and intend on running a business based on the fame, reputation, goodwill and notoriety of the Skeller. The lawsuit also names Charles and Neil Herlocher, who own the building.

“The Troskos have conspired to steal the Rathskeller bar business, trademark and goodwill from All-American Rathskeller Inc. and pass off an imposter bar to loyal fans, customers and supporters throughout Happy Valley and beyond,” the lawsuit said.

Gastiger owned and operated the Rathskeller since 1985 and said he worked tirelessly for 33 years to build goodwill amongst the Penn State community. He also said the Skeller acquired a distinctiveness as “the bar” that is part of the Penn State community.

“The Skeller bar is not a location. The Skeller is a business run by people who have made it a cornerstone of the Penn State experience because of the goodwill, camaraderie and Penn State spirit that was part of the business,” the lawsuit states. “The Rathskeller bar has an independent economic value that is separate from the physical location of the bar.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the Troskos, with the help of Jay Paterno, made false or misleading statements to the media regarding possible offers for the Rathskeller and the business’ trademarks.

In June, the Troskos told the CDT that they wanted to maintain a sense of history and tradition with Doggie’s Rathskeller and Garden.

They said the name references both the Skeller’s original circa 1933 handle — The Rathskeller and Gardens — and C.C. “Doggie” Alexander, the owner who swapped it for the “All American Rathskeller” a year later.

The Gastigers argue the name should be prohibited because they continue to operate the Rathskeller online and are actively looking for a new brick and mortar home.

The lawsuit alleges false designation of origin, unfair competition, trademark infringement, intentional interference with business relationships, trade libel and trade dress infringement.

A jury trial has been requested and the Gastigers are seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages. They also asked the court to restrain the Troskos from infringing on their business, making false or misleading statements and to create an account for all profits received by the Troskos as a result of the alleged infringement.

“We are very disappointed that the Rathskeller was forced to take legal action to protect its rights and to avoid the ongoing summer confusion that is occurring because of the actions of the Herlochers and the Troskos,” Monica Gastiger said in an email. “They have no right to the Rathskeller name and passing off their new bar as a continuation of our business is wrong and misleads the public.”

She also said the Rathskeller is a State College institution that has spent decades serving customers and the community.

Patrons enjoy the Rathskeller on its last day on Jan., 27, 2018.

“We were left with no choice but to take this action to protect our business and the Rathskeller name,” Gastiger said. “As the rightful stewards of this historic institution, we will continue to vigorously protect the interests of the one and only original Rathskeller.”

Tom Trosko said he, his wife and their attorney plan to speak with the Gastigers shortly to reach an “amicable” solution. He did not say what such a solution may be.

“I don’t feel like that would be fair,” Trosko said. “We’re just going through the proper channels and working with their team and working with our team so that we’ll hopefully be able to meet in the middle.”