Kilted controversy: Sexy restaurant chain charges trademark infringement against new Kilted Caddy girls business in Myrtle Beach area

A courtroom clash is brewing over who has the right to market kilt-clad cuties to golf-loving, beer thirsty Myrtle Beach area consumers.

The Tilted Kilt — a so-called “breastaurant” chain known for waitresses who sport thigh-length kilts, bare midriffs and plaid bras — this week filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Myrtle Beach-based Kilted Caddy Club, which supplies similarly dressed female caddies for golf outings.

The Tempe, Ariz.-based Tilted Kilt, which has nearly 100 locations nationwide including one at Broadway at the Beach, says in court documents that the caddy club is copying its distinctive and trademarked “uniforms,” thereby, confusing consumers into thinking the two businesses are related.

The Tilted Kilt has asked a judge for a permanent injunction against the Kilted Caddy Club’s use of its name and tantalizing tartan uniforms, as well as unspecified monetary damages.

The Kilted Caddy Club has not filed a response to the lawsuit, but caddy club lawyer Dan Polley said in an email to Tilted Kilt’s representatives that the accusations have no merit.

The caddy club “is a full service golf club, operating with a Scottish theme,” Polley said in the email, which caddy club president Kevin Brady provided to The Sun News.

“Golf has been played in Scotland for centuries and it is well known that the individuals at the Scottish golf clubs wear kilts.” Polley said. “In keeping with the Scottish theme of the golf club, the female caddies who work at the club also wear kilts.”

Polley said the caddy club’s kilts are a different color than Tilted Kilt’s uniforms and that the club’s female employees don’t wear cleavage-baring halter tops, donning polo-style shirts with sleeves and collars instead.

The Tilted Kilt, with its slogan “a cold beer never looked so good,” also claims the caddy club has infringed on its trademark as the only restaurant and bar service allowed to use the Celtic clothing apparel as part of its brand. In addition to its “caddy girls,” The Kilted Caddy Club operates a bar, restaurant and lounge area at the Azalea Sands golf course in North Myrtle Beach.

Polley said food and drink services are secondary to the Kilted Caddy Club’s golf outings and the club isn’t using its name as a service mark for a restaurant or bar.

In addition, Polley said, there should be no confusion over the names because the restaurant chain uses the word “tilted” as an adjective for the noun “kilt” while the caddy club uses “kilted” as an adjective for the noun “caddy.”

“The respective marks do not have any closeness in appearance, sound or meaning,” Polley said. “Coupled with the fact that our client’s services are provided solely at its Scottish theme golf course, the chance for confusion is remote.”

The Tilted Kilt disagrees in court documents, saying consumer confusion is diminishing the chain’s brand, which it has spent millions of dollars to cultivate.

In addition to the Kilted Caddy Club’s owners, the Tilted Kilt is suing East Coast Golf Management, which operates Azalea Sands through a lease and management agreement. The Kilted Caddy Club has a five-year lease with a five-year option to run the food and beverage operation at Azalea Sands.

Mike Buccerone, president of East Coast Golf Management, said the complaint against Kilted Caddy “has nothing to do with East Coast.”

“It’s the group that is leasing our food and beverage operation,” Buccerone said.

No court dates have been scheduled.

The Kilted Caddy Club held its grand opening at Azalea Sands on June 7. It contracts with Myrtle Beach Caddy Girls owner Meghan Tarmey to provide female caddies for golf outings.

This is at least the third trademark lawsuit in recent years filed by a national chain against a Myrtle Beach area competitor.

The Firehouse Subs chain filed a lawsuit in 2009 against a former Horry County firefighter for using the word “firehouse” in his Calli Baker’s Firehouse Bar & Grill near Briarcliffe Acres. That lawsuit ended with a confidential settlement, although the local restaurant still bears the same name.

National candy store chain It’Sugar sued Myrtle Beach retailer I Love Sugar last year, claiming the local shop copied its design elements. The two sides reached a confidential settlement in February.

The Sun News staff writer Alan Blondin contributed to this report

Contact DAVID WREN at 626-0281 or via twitter at @David_Wren_