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Polish sausage stand accuses rival of piggybacking on name

Jim's Original Polish 1150 south Union. Monday August 29 2011 | Brian Jackson~Chicago Sun-Times

Jim's Original Polish 1150 south Union. Monday, August 29, 2011 | Brian Jackson~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: November 4, 2011 5:51PM

It’s right there in the name, Jim’s Original Polish, and the famed Maxwell Street hot dog stand is calling out what it contends are local imitators in two recent lawsuits.

The longtime purveyor of sausage, which operates locations just off the Dan Ryan Expressway near Roosevelt Road and 95th Street, claims a competitor intentionally misled consumers by opening a store a few blocks east of its South Side location under the name Jim’s Original Chicago.

The federal lawsuit filed two weeks ago contends “confusingly similar” signs reading “Original Maxwell Street Polish” and “Original Maxwell Street Pork Chops,” as well as similar menu items, falsely lead customers “into thinking there is a connection, affiliation, or association” with the plaintiff’s business.

“One thing is we don’t want people to be deceived into thinking they are actually receiving products that originate from our company,” said plaintiff attorney Jin Kim.

Jim’s Original Polish is unwilling to share its history, which dates back to 1941, when James Stefanovic bought from his aunt the hot dog stand at Halsted and Maxwell Streets where he’d worked for two years. Owner Jim Christopoulos, Stefanovic’s grandson and namesake, was not available for comment. The logo “Jim’s Original,” as well as the phrase “The original Maxwell Street Polish Sausage Stand” were registered with Illinois in 2007, according to the suit.

But the case has little merit, according Mirza Husain, co-owner of Jim’s Original Chicago, who says he, too, received a trademark for the state for his business name.

“If people like his food, they aren’t going to come to me just because of a name,” said Husain, “I named it after a guy named Jim who worked for me for 12 years.”

“If I’d known this would happen I would have used the name Joe or Tim or something,” said Husain. “You see lots of Jim’s Hot Dogs on Google ... I’d never misguide anyone. I’m not copying either. He’s got six or seven menu items, I’ve got 25. If he’d come to me and asked, I would have changed it. As long as the food is good people will come to you. I’m still willing to talk.”

A second lawsuit was filed last week against Jim’s Original of Joliet, Inc., which operates Jim’s Original J Town located in Chicago at 1137 W. 63rd Street and another location in Hammond, Ind. The suit claims they sell the “Original Maxwell Street Polish.”

The suits call for the businesses to stop using copy cat signs and menu descriptions and call for an unspecified amount of money for damages.

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