City Desk

Local Mumbo Sauce Seller May Have to Call Its Condiment Something Else

In trademark violation, this bottle has the words "Mumbo Sauce" on it.

Mumbo sauce has been hailed as the "heart and soul of D.C. carryout restaurants" —a sauce that truly "captures the flavor of the District."

But according to a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the term "mumbo sauce"—and perhaps the sweet, barbecue-like sauce itself—is not a D.C. native, but was legally born in Chicago. The upshot: The Chicago-born Argia B's Mumbo Sauce can keep its trademark, while the locally based Capital City Mumbo Sauce may have to find a new moniker.

Here's the back story: In 1958, Argia Collins Sr. trademarked the name of his homemade Mumbo barbecue sauce, which he used in his restaurants and sold to grocery stores and other restaurants around Chicago. Collins' daughter, Allison Collins, is now the CEO of Select Brands, the manufacturer that sells Argia B's Mumbo Sauce to more than 600 stores around the Midwest.

In 2011, D.C. native and Annapolis resident Arsha Jones started Capital City Mumbo Sauce, which she bottles and sells online.

Jones filed a petition to cancel the Chicago Mumbo Sauce sauce trademark, arguing that "mumbo" had become the generic name for the sauce that has become a staple in D.C. take-out restaurants like Yum's and others. Mumbo sauce is also referred to as mambo sauce.

But nearly two years later, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board dismissed the petition for cancellation, concluding that there wasn't enough evidence to show that the term had become generic.

"When my father created MUMBO BBQ Sauce more than 60 years ago, he made more than just a product—he laid the foundation of a family and entrepreneurial legacy,” Allison Collins says in a press release.

Jones could not immediately be reached for comment. It's unclear what  will happen to her company, but she will likely have to change her product's name and stop selling mumbo sauce souvenirs. (Perhaps, as a mostly painless fix, Jones could simply change her company's name to Capital City Mambo Sauce?)

So for now, Washingtonians, enjoy your mumbo sauce informally, and refrain from emblazoning your shirts with the words "mumbo sauce"—because that's probably illegal too.

Image courtesy of Capital City Mumbo Sauce

Correction: Originally, the photo caption incorrectly stated that this was an act of copyright infringement. As noted in the story, this is a trademark violation.

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  • drez

    You're allowed to emblazon your own shirt but not to emblazen shirts for sale.

  • BabyBoy

    This is crazy. What am I going to do now for that sweet zangy but sour sauce?

  • Joseph Price

    Image caption:
    "In an act of copyright infringement, this bottle has the words "Mumbo Sauce" on it."

    No, as you noted in the article itself, this is a trademark matter, not a copyright matter.

  • ItsKells

    We call it MAMBO sauce anyway. Easy fix, as stated in the article. Everyone east of Capitol Hill calls it MAMBO sauce. The transplants call it Mumbo sauce. Let Chicago have the name we don't really even use. Hell, the gogo band is MAMBO Sauce. That says it all.

  • noodlez

    I CALL BULLSHIT ON THE CHI!

  • speaker of truth and honesty

    Fuck the Chi....my wife is born and raised there and her nor her brothers, sisters or parents who still live there know of this sauce. Further the term has become common for at least the last 40 years at every carry out from Baltimore to Richmond.

  • BIGBOB

    The truth is Mumbo Sauce was originated by a guy named LARRY who owned WINGS & Things on 14th Street in the 1960's

  • BINGO!

    In 2011 (CHECK ONE), D.C. native and Annapolis resident (CHECK TWO) Arsha Jones started Capital City Mumbo Sauce, which she bottles and sells online (FOR $8 A BOTTLE - CHECK THREE).

    I think I just got a bingo on my swagger jacking card, can someone check?

  • El

    There are 1001 version of Mumbo sauce around the city. I've never ever heard anybody from Chicago say "OMG you guys have this too" ...whatever.

  • JohnnE

    Get some Heinz catsup, some sweet & sour sauce, and a little chilli powder, mix it up, and you have mumbo (small M) sauce. I was at Costco last week and found a quart jar of Mumbo Sauce(tm). It was good, but more like BBQ sauce than Capital City's concoction, which has a slightly Asian flair to it. I think they're both quite good, just different.

  • Jawanza Johnson

    is the product for sister's only? if not where are you located so i can come get some of the product. How much are they each?

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