Trademark Defense 101: We Love D.C., but sorry. Mumbo Sauce is a Chicago Thing.


trademark-series business lawyer


I love when readers send fun stuff my way to dissect. This week, someone forwarded me a Chicago Tribune article, “What Does Chicago Know About Mumbo Sauce?” Mumbo Sauce is a popular condiment served in Washington D.C. restaurants, considered part of the culture of D.C. Little do folks know, it actually originated right here in Chicago. According to the Tribune,

Mumbo Sauce was founded by Argia B. Collins, an African-American who opened his first restaurant in Bronzeville in 1950. He later opened three more locations, and the demand for his special sauce led him to eventually bottle it and sell it. By September 1958, Collins obtained a trademark for his popular sauce. The sauce is currently sold with the name Argia B’s Mumbo Sauce.


Stand up Bronzeville.


What really caught my attention was that the owner was savvy enough to register the trademark for his Mumbo Sauce, back in 1958. Because he made that wise move then, today his family is in the position to claim ownership of a brand that has gained notoriety, particularly on the east coast.

The Skinny.

Basically, the D.C.-based company Capital City filed a petition to cancel the trademark for “Mumbo Sauce” owned by the Chicago-based company, Select Brands. The basis of their argument was that Mumbo Sauce had become generic through its widespread popularity in D.C. Generic terms cannot be registered as a trademark.

Bad Move.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found that Capital City did not prove their argument, and that Select Brands regularly defended its trademark against infringers. Chicago won.

Here are the lessons for you:

  • If you own a trademark defend it to no end. Create a paper trail. You might need it on a rainy day like this one.
  • If you own a trademark continue to use it openly and regularly. Select Brands (the Chicago Company) still sells the sauce around the country.
  • Registering your trademark is not a business cost, it is an investment. Now, Select Brands is in the position to either distribute the sauce to Capital City, or sell a license for them to use the name. Interesting to see which way they go. Either way, 63 years (and generations later) the fact the original owner registered the trademark is showing its worth today.

Take care of your business, peeps. What do you think of this story?


One thought on “Trademark Defense 101: We Love D.C., but sorry. Mumbo Sauce is a Chicago Thing.

  • mylifestylezen on September 28th, 2013

    @katinaleaks:disqus, thanks for being a part of the lz community. Shoot me an email at to discuss my firm’s trademark search and registration service. The filing fee is $325 for a trademark, and defense starts with simply monitoring your brand online (seeing where it’s mentioned, and if there is unauthorized use of your trademark. If a cease and desist needs to go out, it will depend on the attorney’s fee, so it will vary.

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