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Back to court for Buc-ee’s

They seem to do this a lot.

Buc-ee’s, the local convenience store chain known for clean restrooms, cheap gasoline and its cartoon beaver mascot, is trying to stop a Nebraska company from muscling in on the Texas market with plans to build stores called “Bucky’s,” the latest development in a decade-long dispute between the dueling convenience store chains with names that sound the same.

Eleven years ago, both companies filed for trademarks months apart to protect their growing companies. After a legal battle, the two reached a truce: Bucky’s in Nebraska agreed that the Texas firm could continue to use “Buc-ee’s” because the names, logos and market area of the two operators were different enough that consumers were not likely to be confused, according to the 2009 consent agreement.

The agreement allowed the two chains to co-exist because of their geographic distance, said Steve Levine, a trademark lawyer in Dallas. The peace lasted eight years until Bucky’s owner, Buck’s Inc. of Omaha, broke the truce with its Texas expansions plans.

“Bucky’s in Nebraska has really, really upped the ante by moving into Texas,” said Levine.

Buck’s has teamed up with developers to begin building at least six “Bucky’s” convenience stores within the next year, including locations in Houston and Nassau Bay, according to the lawsuit Buc-ee’s filed Tuesday in U.S. district court in Houston. Buc-ee’s alleges that Buck’s – which does business as Bucky’s in the Midwest -is trying to confuse the public by using a similar sounding name and is seeking a court order to stop the plans from moving ahead. Bucky’s has already bought property, applied for zoning permits and obtained liquor licenses for an unspecified number of stores, according to the lawsuit.

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Buc-ee’s accuses its rival of trademark infringement and unfair competition. Shawn Bates, a commercial trial lawyer who handles trademark cases in Houston, said the case will likely revolve around the issue of consumer confusion. The question is where people who see a sign for “Bucky’s” will get off the highway believing they’re heading for a “Buc-ees” with its wide selection Texans’ favorite foods and Lone Star tchotchkes.

“In my mind when people say Buc-ee’s, they’re talking about the beaver” not how its spelled, said Bates a Buc-ee’s fan who stops at every opportunity for the honey pepper flavored jerky.

This is the third trademark lawsuit that Buc-ee’s has filed in recent years, in addition to their previous wrangling with Bucky’s. Who knew the interstate rest stop business was so contentious? This one I understand more than the earlier ones, as the potential for confusion between “Bucky’s” and “Buc-ee’s” seems clear to me. But as always, we’ll see what a jury makes of it.

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