An upstart, San Francisco-based e-tailer that came into being in the last few years selling everything from sweaters and bed linens to baby clothes and luggage appears ready to do battle over the name Quince, which the acclaimed restaurant of the same name, in the same city, says has already caused confusion.
Quince is, as many San Franciscans know, one of the most established and respected restaurants in the city, having just celebrated its 20th anniversary. It was founded in 2003 by chef Michael Tusk and his wife Lindsay Tusk, and grew from a respected neighborhood haunt in Pacific Heights to the high-end restaurant and multi-pronged Jackson Square business that it is now — with a catering arm, a private membership club and event space, an upcoming espresso and gelato bar, and the bustling next-door sister restaurant Cotogna.
That being said, Quince the restaurant, like many others, was not operating at full-throttle through part of the pandemic, and it spent almost all of last year closed completely for a remodel.
The restaurant is back, and still holds three Michelin stars — one of three restaurants in the city with that distinction, along with Benu and Atelier Crenn. It reopened in late November with some fanfare, and with a fully remodeled dining room and lounge area.
But during the pandemic, another San Francisco business launched and gained momentum, an e-commerce site called Quince.com. As the Chronicle reports, the web business launched in 2020, after CEO Sid Gupta spent two years beta testing a "luxury," direct-to-consumer business called Last Brand. It fully launched as Quince, a name which Gupta says he chose because it's "crisp" and "clean" and "represented a modernity about what we were trying to do."
The Tusks took notice some time later, but particularly, as they tell the Chronicle, when they started receiving returned packages at the restaurant — a mixup that Quince.com now blames on a Fedex snafu after they changed addresses. Since then, the restaurant has also gotten a negative, one-star review on Yelp that was meant for Quince.com.
And, Michael Tusk says, the last straw came when he saw that Quince.com was marketing cookware and chef's knives — in one instance, as the Tusks' attorneys show in a legal filing, a knife was put up for sale on Quince.com that looks a lot like a chef's knife that was branded with Tusk's and Quince's name.
"It went from brand confusion to something that felt much deeper, personal and violating," Tusk tells the Chronicle.
The website, which still seems focused on women's clothing according to its landing page, has become something of a catchall for low-cost "sustainable luxury" of all kinds, including cookware, menswear, toys, and home decor.
An attorney for the website, Zachary Briers, gave a statement to the Chronicle saying, "They sell cashmere sweaters and shearling boots and necklaces and comforters. A restaurant with a single location does not have the right to exclude others from using similar names in completely unrelated industries."
But clearly the cookware thing... not unrelated! And you may notice some typeface similarities between the two businesses' websites above?
Quince.com currently holds a trademark for specific online retail services, which it's held since 2021. Quince the restaurant holds a trademark for catering and culinary consulting services with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, but as the Chronicle notes, this is on the "supplemental register" of trademarks, which does not have the same legal weight as those on the principal register. The restaurant has a pending trademark application for restaurant and bar services on the principal register.
There have apparently been bank confusion issues as well, with a Quince.com customer finding a charge on their account with the restaurant's address and phone number attached.
And the two parties appear to be headed for court, unless some settlement is reached. The Tusks' lawyers offered in January to take a $12 million settlement from Quince.com to let them keep using the name and to compensate for the benefit the web business has gotten from the brand confusion so far. That has been refused, and Briers tells the Chronicle they plan to "vigorously" fight the suit.
There is more to the lawsuit as well. Gupta denies it, but the Tusks contend that he dined at the restaurant before naming his business Quince.
SFist reached out for further comment from the Tusks on the matter, but they've declined to discuss it further.
The Chronicle notes that Quince.com's parent company Last Brand has already faced other trademark infringement lawsuits in its short time in business. These include one from Yeti coolers, for apparently marketing products that looked very similar to Yeti's — that was settled in 2022. And Deckers Outdoor Corporation sued Last Brand over some boots that looked a lot like the popular Uggs.