By Becky Billingsley
Wednesday, March 21, 2012, Surfside Beach - Chef Giovanni Giannone of Surfside Beach is suing local television personality and restaurateur Cecil Chandler for trademark infringement, civil conspiracy and other charges and is asking damages of $200,000.
The complaint, filed in the South Carolina 15th Judicial Court on March 16, stems from Chandler changing the name of his Surfside Beach restaurant from Cecil's Italian Grill to Valentino's II the same week that Giannone put the sign up for his restaurant called Valentino Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria.
Background on that incident can be read HERE.
In Chef Giannone's complaint, named defendants are Cecil Chandler, Valentino's II Italian Cuisine A Family Restaurant, John Doe Partners of Valentino's II and John Doe Consultants.
Among the factual allegations in the complaint are:
* In October 2001, as the registered agent for Valentino, Inc., Plaintiff Giannone opened Valentino Italian Restaurant, which was then located at 637 U.S. 17 Business S. in Surfside Beach.
* Plaintiff Giannone sold the business, and the structure was torn down in March 2009.
* On May 6, 2011, Plaintiff Giannone's status as registered agent in the South Carolina Secretary of State's database was dissolved.
* In April 2010, Defendant Cecil Chandler opened Cecil's Italian Grill, a restaurant located at 531 U.S. 17 Business S. in Surfside Beach.
* On Oct. 14, 2011, Plaintiff Giannone's wife, Jacqueline Veiga, registered Veiga, LLC, doing business as Valentino Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria, with the South Carolina Secretary of State.
* Also on Oct. 14, 2011, Plaintiffs published a notice in the local media detailing their intention to apply for a beer, wine and liquor permit.
* On Oct. 17, 2011, the S.C. Dept. of Revenue issued a Retail License to Veiga, LLC, doing business as "Valentino Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria," at 323 U.S. 17 Business N. in Surfside Beach.
* On Oct. 14, 2011, Plaintiffs applied for a trademark with the S.C. Secretary of State; the trademark consists of the words "Valentino Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria."
* As of Nov. 22, 2011, that trademark was registered.
* On Oct. 21, 2011, Plaintiffs were issued a business license from the Town of Surfside Beach for Veiga, LLC, doing business as Valentino Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria.
*On Oct. 21, the Town of Surfside Beach issued a sign change permit to the Defendants. The sign saying Cecil's Italian Grill became Valentino's II Italian Cuisine a Family Restaurant.
The first cause of action in the lawsuit is for Trademark Infringement and asks for actual damages of $50,000 and "an order enjoining Defendants from using or displaying a sign referring to this restaurant as Valentino's II."
The second cause of action is for Tortious Interference with a Business Relationship and says Giannone's opening of Valentino Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria created a business expectancy that the defendants had knowledge of.
"Defendant's application for a sign change, and the language placed under the Valentino's II sign, demonstrates an intentional act meant to breach the expectancy of Plaintiffs," the complaint reads. "Defendants, by alluding to the restaurant being a second incarnation, as shown by the II next to Valentino's, as well as the language alluding to everything being 'the same,' induced prospective customers to eat at their restaurant, when they were really seeking to eat at Plaintiffs' 'Valentino Restaurant & Pizzeria'."
The second cause goes on to say, "Defendant also contacted independent consultants to help him attract more business by recommending a name change of Cecil's to an Italian name, thereby increasing its Italian authenticity," and "Defendant's intentional conduct in inducing customers who believed they were eating at Plaintiffs' restaurant, the successor to the original Valentino Italian Restaurant, to instead eat at Defendant's similarly named one, took expected profits away from Plaintiffs."
In the second cause, Giannone is seeking actual damages of $50,000.
The third cause of action is for Civil Conspiracy, explaining that, "Though Cecil Chandler is an owner and employee of Valentino's II, he as an individual, his John Doe partners, as well as his independent consultants, constitute the two or more persons needed to form a conspiracy," and "Defendants' objective was to ruin or damage the business of another, for purposes of driving it out of business, thereby increasing their own volume of customers and income."
In addition the complaint charges that "Without the civil conspiracy by Defendants, no name change of Cecil's to Valentino's II would have occurred. The civil conspiracy has thus required Plaintiffs to expend additional amounts of advertising to combat the misrepresentations presented by Defendants in their attempts to target Plaintiffs' business for their own pecuniary gain."
In the third cause, Giannone is seeking special damages of $50,000.
The fourth cause of action refers to the S.C. Unfair Trade Practices Act, claiming that "Defendants' restaurant name Valentino's II, along with its advertising scheme stating the similarities between it and the original Valentino Italian Restaurant are deceptive in that the advertising has the capacity, effect or tendency to deceive. People who think they are eating at the reincarnated Valentino Italian Restaurant are eating instead at the former Cecil's Italian Grill..."
In the fourth cause, Giannone is seeking $50,000 in actual damages.
A fifth cause of action charges the defendants with Fraudulent Misrepresentation, for the wording of the Valentino's II sign that says, "Only the Name Has Changed! Same Chef Same Staff Same Delicious Food." Giannone claims this wording is deceptive because it leads potential customers to believe "...it is the reincarnation of the original Valentino Italian Restaurant, opened by Plaintiffs in 2001," and that "Defendants intended these representations to be acted upon by customers in the community, who in thinking Valentino's II was the reincarnation of Valentino Italian Restaurant, would eat there instead of Plaintiff's restaurant."
In the fifth cause, Giannone is seeking $50,000 in damages, making a total of damages sought $200,000.