The beaver is smiling, but his lawyer is fighting.
Buc-ee s, the wildly popular chain of giant gas stations and oversized convenience stores sprouting up alongside Texas highways, is in federal court defending its buck-toothed beaver trademark.
The retail chain based in Lake Jackson is suing a small store called B & B Grocein Uvalde County for advertising itself with a cartoon critter it calls the Frio Beaver.
Both of the characters sport smiles consisting of two very large teeth. The Frio Beaver logo, like the Buc-ee s beaver, is surrounded by a bright yellow circle outlined in black, a point noted in the trademark infringement suit.
Both of the beavers look happy, but the logos also differ in a number of ways. The Buc-ee s beaver logo shows only a head shot profile; the Frio Beaver is standing, wearing sunglasses and carrying an inner-tube.
That s a nice, little, happy chipper beaver, said Mark Hicks, a Buc-ee s customer comparing the two logos. And that s a river rat looking beaver.
Other customers checking out the cartoon characters disagreed.
Yeah, look at the teeth, said Amy Burris, a customer at the Buc-ee s store in Texas City. I mean, it s a beaver. You can t take a beaver and put it on something else for a logo like that.
Maybe you can, maybe you can t. Gerald Treece, the dean of the South Texas College of Law, said he believes Buc-ee s doesn t have much of case but that doesn t really matter.
It s a terrible example, again, of What the law is doesn t matter, Treece said. It s big guys always beat the little guys when it comes to trademark and copyright.
Treece points out the Buc-ee s beaver also resembles other buck-toothed cartoon animals that came before it.
I could be arguing that this Buc-ee s may have trouble with Alvin and the Chipmunks and the other cartoon characters that so closely resemble this, he said. But I guess I m wrong because they ve got a registered trademark.
The lawsuit also names the Austin-based company that designed the Frio Beaver.
An attorney for Buc-ee s said the company hopes to resolve the dispute without a trial. B&B Grocery, the Frio Beaver people, didn t return calls for comment.