The Biggest Burger War And Lawsuit You Never Heard Of Happened In Illinois
We all love a good burger, and the only thing better than a good burger is a good burger with a story.
Sitting at 1508 Charleston Ave, in Mattoon, Illinois is the "Original Burger King”, founded in 1952. Funny enough, it is not related to the fast-food chain Burger King. The story behind this is a fun one.
The restaurant's founders, the Hoots family, actually claimed it was the "original" Burger King and predated the fast-food chain. This led to an iconic court case in 1968. It is a well-known case dealing with trademark laws regarding the Lanham Act, which is the primary federal trademark statute of law in the United States.
How It Ended
The outcome was a bit of a win for the Hoots family according to Wikipedia,
The court ruled that, because of the federal trademark registration, and because the federal law indicated priority over state law, Florida's Burger King had rights to the name almost everywhere in the United States, including in Illinois, except in the Mattoon area, where the Hoots family had prior actual use. As a result of the case, the Hootses cannot use the name "Burger King" outside of the Mattoon area, and the Florida chain (which operates both nationally in the U.S. and internationally) cannot use the name in the Mattoon area.
This means that the Mattoon market area has a circle with a radius of 20 miles that is centered on the Hoots' restaurant. So, now the closest chain Burger King is located approximately 25 miles north of Mattoon in Tuscola, Illinois.
Are They Still Around?
As of right now, it looks like the “Original Burger King” is still around today. They tell their story with guests, and fans alike.
In 1952 Harry Truman was president, Elvis was an unknown teenager, a gallon of gas costs 20 cents and a young entrepreneur named Gene Hoots opened a little burger place called Burger King in Mattoon, Illinois. A lot has changed in the last 65 years but one thing that hasn't is the original Burger King's commitment to serving quality burgers to the residents and visitors of central Illinois.
This just goes to show that sometimes little spots can go toe to toe with big corporations.