No wildfire for two Peninsula businesses; they change names rather than fight legal threat
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Nancy and Steve “Bear” Bishop have changed the name of their Wildfire Cider business to Alpenfire Cider because of a legal challenge to their use of the name “Wildfire.” -- Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Chef John Unruh, left, and owner Denny Negus of the former Wildfire Grill enjoy the fire from the pit on the deck of what's now LD's Woodfire Grill.

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

Two North Olympic Peninsula businesses have changed their names after a Chicago-based restaurant chain threatened to sue over copyright infringement.

The Wildfire Grill at 929 W. Eighth St. in Port Angeles is now LD's Woodfire Grill, though the sign may remain the same for a while.

And Wildfire Cider of 220 Pocket Lane in Port Townsend is now officially Alpenfire Cider.

The owners of both businesses said they are perplexed as to why they were told by Wildfire Restaurants — a steak and seafood restaurant chain with locations in Illinois, Minnesota, Georgia and Virginia, but none in Washington — to change their names or face litigation.

But they each decided it was far less expensive to change their names than to face hefty court expenses.

“It was very frustrating,” said Nancy Bishop, who owns the cidery with her husband, Steve.

“We thought it was a joke; we really did at first.”

Bishop said Wildfire started sending them notices last fall.

They plan to have labels printed with the new name later this month. Thousands, she said, may have to be discarded.

Denny Negus of the formerly named Wildfire Grill said he was approached first by the restaurant chain.

He received the first notice in mid-2009, about six months after he opened.

Negus said he officially changed the name about a week ago, deciding it was not worth the fight.

“I met with a trademark lawyer in Sequim,” Negus said. “He said I can try to fight it, but it will cost around $20,000.”

Negus said he assumes that the Wildfire owners were exercising their trademark rights in order to ensure they maintain them.

“I think I was one of the first targets,” he said.

But why would a restaurant go after a cidery?

Bishop said she believes Wildfire found out about them because they were selling the cider at Negus' restaurant.

“They have a trademark for alcohol,” she said. “They cover all their bases.”

This isn't the first time a Peninsula business has been in a trademark dispute.

Olympic Cellars in 2007 was told by the U.S. Olympic Committee that it couldn't use “Olympic” in its name, claiming it owns the word when it comes to commerce.

The winery reached an agreement with the committee in 2008 that allowed it to keep using the name, but only locally.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 09. 2011 11:36PM
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