The Unseen Evidence in the Buc-ee’s vs. Choke Canyon Lookalike Logo Legal Battle

Buc-ee’s scored a sweeping victory in Texas federal court last month when a judge found rival rest stop chain Choke Canyon guilty of 4 wrongs: trademark infringement, dilution, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. But the battle might not be over: “Choke Canyon is expected to appeal,“ reports Law360, “and Texas intellectual property experts say the store has a strong case that it was wrongly barred at trial from presenting key defense evidence.”

Among the facts unheard during the 4-day trial: findings from an expert Choke Canyon commissioned to ask 300 people what they thought of the logos’ similarity. 99 percent of them “said there was no likelihood of confusion,” between the two.

Then there are the images that went unseen during the jury’s deliberation. Within that 6-hour period, jurors’ first question to Judge Keith P. Ellison was whether they should compare the set of logos pictured above — which includes the brands’ names — or picture-only versions, like the ones shown below:


Ellison ruled that the nameless pair was what that the jury should use in determining a verdict.

And see that tiny 2-letter mark under the gator’s hand? It too was held out of consideration by a pretrial ruling that limited Choke Canyon from mentioning the federal trademark registration it has for the reptile’s likeness.

Buc-ee’s is now seeking an injunction to bar Choke Canyon from using the alligator logo. Last Monday, Choke Canyon proposed switching over to a black-and-white version of its existing design, but Buc-ee’s opposed that request, arguing that the competitor shouldn’t be allowed to use any variant of its current mascot.

Images: Buc-ee’s (beaver logo); Choke Canyon (alligator logo)

Anatomy of the Case

15 Comment

  • America’s legal system is a known rigged game that will always benefit deeper pockets, but good luck Canyon. Just don’t Choke.

  • buc-ees may have won in the courts, but this is bad press.

    While I used to stop on a road trip to stretch my legs and buy a water for the road, I only stop there to poop now and don’t buy anything.

  • Although I assume that there is some geographical significance tied to the name, having a restaurant/food place with the word “Choke” in the name seems a bit peculiar.

  • Buck Fuckees

  • I dont support the brand of slavery, oops indentured servitude, practiced by buccees. This is just one more reason to stay away.

  • Even if Choke Canyon did take inspiration from Buc-ee’s design cues, transitioning over time from a busy black-and-white line drawing of a landscape to something simpler and more colorful and eye-catching, and even if they took inspiration from big bathrooms and other features that Buc-ee’s is known for, I agree with the thrust of their argument that there is unlikely to ever be any confusion by members of the public as to which store is which.
    I for one will continue to go wherever gas prices are the lowest and do not anticipate having any problems identifying or navigating to the one or the other.
    @ Donald: Choke Canyon is the name of a decent-sized lake in south Texas.

  • I don’t fully understand the merits of a lawsuit on this one. They’re saying that no one else can use a circle in their logo? No one else can use an animal? No one else can use an animal with it’s tongue sticking out? No one else can use an animal with it’s tongue sticking out and a hat on? No one else can use an animal with it’s tongue sticking out, a hat on, and facing to the right?

    One’s a beaver. One’s an alligator. Give me a freakin’ break. I get the Buc-ee’s vs. Bucky’s suit from not too long ago. Okay, whatever. But this one?? Sorry, I just don’t see it. Give this one to the Alligator folks.

  • Part of the blame for Buc-ee’s litigiousness may be placed on how IP law works. A trademark owner’s failure to enforce their rights can be used against them in the future.

  • Commenter 7- I’ve heard a few people say bad things about working for Buccees. What is the issue? Not being contentious, I just don’t know.

  • J – Apparently there was some issues with bucee’s employment contracts when the created a retention clause allowing them to collect money when the employee leaves before the contract is over.

  • If a Buc-ee’s were next door to a Choke Canyon BBQ, how many people (previously unfamiliar with either brand) would ask “Why did they build two of the same exact businesses right next to each other”. The answer? Nobody.

    While I’ll admit I rarely pass by a Buc-ee’s without stopping in for a purchase, I’ve always thought their logo looked like it was designed by a remedial third grader. Yes, the name is easy enough to remember but why the super clunky spelling? Without the hyphen, were they worried people might pronounce it as “boo seas”?…

  • I don’t get Buc-ees. It has gotten so big and so crowded you have to park a long way away. The whole point of a convenience store is the convenience. To me, you might as well stop at a Kroger for Jerky. It is about the same parking and convenience.

  • @Scot – truth.

    The one in Bastrop is now a traffic impediment.

  • That Bastrop Buc-ee’s does not even bother to advertise its gas prices and is usually undercut by the gas station on the corner just to the north of it. The Giddings one does advertise prices and is consistently the lowest price in town.
    Also, my biggest gripe is that no Buc-ee’s has squeegees. I really really do not like that.

  • For an entertaining historical trademark/naming lawsuit…. look up the famous Original Burger King(from Mattoon, IL) case. Burger King of Florida Inc. Vs. Hoots (1968) . The small town Illinois burger stand had registered “Burger King” as an Illinois trademark in 1959, after starting their restaurant in 1952. The Burger King(that we all know) started in Miami FL in 1954. Both eventually sued each other. A compromise was made that kept any nationally known Burger Kings from locating within 20 miles of the Mattoon IL Burger King.