Defamation Claims Have no Place in Smoothie War

     (CN) – A Georgetown restaurant owner cannot advance claims that a business rival tried to corner the smoothie market by spreading a false rumor of child molestation, a federal judge ruled.
     The claims arose out of a trademark battle between two restaurants in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown.
     Wisey’s accused Cafe Romeo owner Davar Ashgizzadeh of trademark infringement under the Lanham Act after Ashgrizzadeh allegedly changed his cafe’s name to Wise Eats Cafe. Ashgrizzadeh runs his restaurant through Nimellis Pizzeria and the now-defunct Minellis Pizzeria Enterprises.
     Ashgizzadeh apparently told the court that Cafe Romeo became Wise Eats Cafe out of his frustration over escalating harassment from Wisey’s owner to oust him from the smoothie-selling business.
     Ashgrizzadeh went on to accuse Wisey’s of defamation and tortious interference with prospective business advantage.
     He said the spat began when an employee of Wisey’s #1 approached him in 2011 and demanded that Cafe Romeo stop selling smoothies.
     The employee allegedly told Ashgizzadeh that Cafe Romeo could sell milkshakes, and then the two restaurants could be “friends,” but otherwise Wisey’s would destroy Cafe Romeo’s business.
     Ashgrizzadeh said he refused to stop selling smoothies and then Wisey’s owner, Nabeel Audeh, began a campaign to defame Ashgrizzadeh and expose his status as a sex offender. Audeh is not named as an individual defendant.
     Though Ashgrizzadeh said his 1996 sex offense, for which he served a two-year sentence, pertains to conduct with an adult, Wisey’s allegedly told its customers throughout the summer of 2011 that Ashgrizzadeh was a child molester.
     Audeh allegedly printed out Ashgrizzadeh’s sex offender registry information and slid it under apartment doors and car wipers in the neighborhood.
     He also stated that several customers stopped patronizing Cafe Romeo after they witnessed Ashgrizzadeh molest a 9-year-old boy in the restaurant, according to the counterclaims.
     Audeh allegedly repeated these claims to a cashier at a Restaurant Depot in Virginia where he ran into Ashgrizzadeh, and shouted them across the street at Cafe Romeo employees.
     U.S. District Judge John Bates dismissed Ashgrizzadeh’s claims for lack of jurisdiction Tuesday.
     Although the counter-claims originate from the same background facts, “Nimellis has not shown that the counterclaims provide a factual basis or overlap that will aid in the resolution of the Lanham Act claims; the facts raised by the parties’ history and relationship, and even Nimellis’ intent and motive, are simply not implicated beyond furnishing a general background for Wisey’s narrow federal trademark, unfair competition, and unlawful cybersquatting claims,” Bates said.

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