21 September 2010

Roof goats

The sight is familiar to anyone from Wisconsin.  Al Johnson's restaurant in Sister Bay, Door County (the "thumb" sticking into Lake Michigan is a classic vacation destination) has goats on the roof.  I've eaten there several times and enjoyed the outstanding Scandinavian cuisine.

But I was disappointed to read this week that the restaurant sued another restaurant last year after discovering that the other one had also been using goats on their roof to attract customers.

Another restaurant in Sister Bay?  No.   Was it in Door County?  No.  In Wisconsin??  No.  The other establishment (a market, not a restaurant) was 750 miles away - in Georgia forcryingoutloud.
Last year, he discovered that Tiger Mountain Market in Rabun County, Ga., had been grazing goats on its grass roof since 2007. Putting goats on the roof wasn't illegal. The violation, Al Johnson's alleged in a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, was that Tiger Mountain used the animals to woo business.

The suit declared: "Notwithstanding Al Johnson's Restaurant's prior, continuous and extensive use of the Goats on the Roof Trade Dress"—a type of trademark—"defendant Tiger Mountain Market opened a grocery store and gift shop in buildings with grass on the roofs and allows goats to climb on the roofs of its buildings."

Al Johnson's "demanded that Defendant cease and desist such conduct, but Defendant has willfully continued to offer food services from buildings with goats on the roof," the suit continued.  Danny Benson, the offending market's owner, says that "legally we could fight it, because it is ridiculous...
The rest of the story is at The Wall Street Journal.  I fully understand the importance of copyright and trademark rights, but this case appears to me to be particularly small-minded.  Our family will be vacationing in Door County again, but my dining plans will be to explore some other restaurants. 

Photo credit monkey.biz.


  1. wow, that brings back memories of camping in Door County and visits to Al's and Wilson's ice cream parlour.

    last time i was there was well over 20 years ago...

    thanks for that!

  2. Good for you. I don't like to patronize businesses like that either.

  3. I wonder if they will try to sue the folks who run the Old Country Market, AKA "Goats on the Roof", store in Coombs on Vancouver Island in BC?!


  4. Very interesting, GA. Al Johnson's has had goats on the roof since 1973, and the Old Country Market website says theirs date to 1975, so I suppose he would sue. But I'm not sure whether trademark law applies across national borders.

    thank you!

  5. To whom it may concern,

    Im writing on behalf of Australian writer Samantha Jewel, author of several books on climate change.

    I would like to ask permission to use your image in her book?

    Please advise if ok to use your photo of goats on the roof.

    Kind Reagrds
    Anna Diatchenko

    1. Anna, thank you for your courtesy in writing to ask for permission to use the photo of the goats in a book. Please note at the bottom of my post the final words: "photo credit: monkey.biz". The link there will take you to the photographer's flickr page. You should contact them for permission.


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