NYC wants Tavern on the Green suit in federal court

NEW YORK, Nov 6 (Reuters) - New York City wants to take its trademark fight with operators of bankrupt restaurant Tavern on the Green to federal district court, according to court papers on Friday.

Last month, the city sued the operators of the iconic Central Park restaurant, claiming it has the sole right to use the Tavern on the Green name.

New York is trying to stop the Leroy family, which also says it owns the Tavern on the Green name, from opening or operating other establishments under the same moniker.

The Leroys have said they have owned the trademark, which they value at $19 million, since 1978.

Earlier this month, the operators sued New York, seeking more time to auction the restaurant’s assets. They have also argued that any new concessionaire could make much more money operating under the “Tavern on the Green” name.

New York City said in court papers on Friday that the dispute was better suited to District Court than the Bankruptcy Court, where it is currently being litigated in adversary proceedings.

“The dispute over ownership of rights existed long before the bankruptcy and the claims alleged in the Trademark Adversary Proceedings do not arise under the bankruptcy laws,” the city said in court papers. The district court must decide whether it wants to take the case.

The city says it has been operating a restaurant at the location, tucked just inside the park off Central Park West in a Victorian Gothic building, since 1934 under the “Tavern on the Green” moniker. It claims the Leroys have been operating the location since 1976 under a license that expires on Dec. 31.

Tavern on the Green filed for bankruptcy protection in September after the city granted a new lease for the property to another restaurateur.

The bankruptcy cases are In re Tavern on the Green Limited Partnership, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, Nos. 09-1513 and 09-15450. (Reporting by Emily Chasan, additional reporting by Caroline Humer; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)