Brad Taylor has a love for BBQ.
In 2014, he opened a small restaurant in Boise’s Vista Village serving up barbecue meats and sides.
He’s so all-in on the business and the food that he had his knuckles tattooed with the restaurant’s name - BBQ4 LIFE. He uses the image of his clenched fists with the BBQ 4LIFE lettering on a sign in his restaurant and the eatery's website.
But early last year, Taylor became aware of some marketing collateral from a much larger competitor that gave him cause for concern.
Some Dickey's Fans posted social media images like this one under the hashtag #Dickeys7
On a commemorative cup for the 75th anniversary of franchise chain Dickeys Barbecue Pit, a familiar image appeared: A set of hands, knuckles out with BBQ4 LIFE tatooed on them. To make it worse, a small character that looked a bit like Brad’s own face with a speech bubble reading “Dickey’s Rocks” appeared between the fists on the black and white cups.
The image has a striking similarity to Brad's own brand - both personally and for his business.
“The best way to describe it is I feel violated,” Taylor told BoiseDev. “I would prefer that this never happened. We’ve worked really hard to get where we are. To have people think that WE copied Dickey’s doesn’t feel very good.”
Taylor worked with his attorneys to see what his options were. But for a small single-location barbecue store to go up a chain with more than 560 restaurants is daunting.
“My big fear was do I want to get in a big giant fight with a big giant company,” Taylor said. “People say ‘you should go after them, you would definitely win!’ The odds are, I would get my butt kicked and lose a bunch of money.”
After Taylor and his attorneys sent a cease and desist letter last year, they began the process of obtaining an official trademark. Taylor says he hadn’t done this when his business first opened due to resources.
“I’m a small business. I don’t have a bunch of capital. That’s something big businesses do, it’s not set up for small businesses.”
A call to Callie Head, Public Relations Manager at Dickey's in Dallas was not returned.
Taylor hoped things would die down after the cease and desist letter last year. But in January, he again saw the knuckles drawing. Taylor and his company have the contract to operate the kitchen for the Ironwood Social event space in Garden City.
A group had booked the venue and said they had a connection to the local Dickeys franchise and had them cater the party.
“When I came back that evening to fire up the kitchen, all the food is sitting there, and now all the bags have my face and knuckles. I went to sleep that night and woke up and was like ‘dang, this is really really frigging irritating.’ It made me wonder, are they currently printing my face and logo on their bags almost a year later?”
He thinks it can lead to confusion for people who have heard of his store.
“If you’ve heard of BBQ4 LIFE - then you’re looking at those bags and thinking “brad endorses Dickeys,’” he said. “I in no way endorse their food."
Taylor says he doesn't think the duplication was fully intentional - but suspects maybe it was a graphic designer who wasn't as careful as they should be.
"My suspicion, having seen people who do marketing work, is that a designer popped online, saw the knuckles and my face and thought 'I’ll build something off of that.' I don’t assume that they saw me and were like 'we are going to copy him.'"
Whatever led up to the graphic similarity, Taylor doesn't feel great about his options.
“The whole thing is just scary and frustrating,” he said “It’s really a bummer to see another company can just take your image and logo and use it - and you can’t do much about it unless you want to lose a bunch of money.”