LOUISVILLE — There's nothing like Derby Pie — and Kern's Kitchen is willing to fight in court to prove that.
The Louisville-based company that makes the chocolate-nut pie has filed a lawsuit over the use of the name against Claudia Sanders Dinner House, the Shelbyville restaurant founded by the wife of Kentucky Fried Chicken creator Colonel Harland Sanders.
Kern's Kitchen is seeking an order stopping the restaurant from using the term "Derby Pie" and more than $335,000 in damages.
The dispute arose over whether servers at the restaurant were calling their pie "Derby Pie." Kern's Kitchen, which created the popular pie in 1954, holds a trademark on the term.
Kern's Kitchen's attorney Donald Cox said they asked the restaurant to stop using the term, but management wouldn't. A message left at Claudia Sanders Dinner House wasn't immediately returned Friday.
"I don't think it was on the menu. I think it was with the servers and what they called it," Cox said.
"Derby Pie" is a specific recipe made by Kern's Kitchen, which has held the trademark for decades.
The Claudia Sanders Dinner House, in its online menu, advertises "Claudia's Kentucky Pie — Made With Chocolate Chips and Pecans," but makes no mention of "Derby Pie."
Kern's Kitchen hasn't been shy about going to court to protect its Derby Pie trademark. Cox estimated Kern's Kitchen has sued to protect the copyright more than 25 times over the years and that he sends out at least one or two letters a week asking people and companies to honor the trademark.
Over the years, it has sued Bon Appetit magazine and a Frankfort restaurant called Rick's White Light Diner.
Bon Appetit won a legal victory when a judge in 1987 found the name to be generic, but the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision.
Failing to aggressively protect a copyright and trademark can make it difficult to defend after a while.