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David Minton

Sub shop’s return met with lawsuit

Profile image for By Jenna Duncan
By Jenna Duncan

Irving business owner says Denton eatery can’t use Captain Nemo’s name

The man behind an Irving business has filed a lawsuit against the recently reopened Captain Nemo’s sub shop in Denton, claiming the business can’t use the Captain Nemo’s name.

Bill Miller, the owner of the Irving Captain Nemo’s, has alleged in court documents that Captain Nemo’s in Denton is a trade name infringement. Miller is seeking damages and wants the name of the new Denton restaurant changed. His attorney filed a lawsuit in Dallas County on Wednesday.

Milton Fette, who owns the Denton business on South Bell Avenue, said he and his lawyer don’t believe the argument will hold up in court, though, since Captain Nemo is a fictional character from the 1870 Jules Verne novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

In the early days of Nemo’s sandwiches, though, the two were not always at odds. Miller’s father was friends with Fette, and the two went into business together for the Denton location. An affidavit by the younger Miller says the shop closed because of Fette’s mismanagement, a few years after Miller took ownership over from his father.

No hearing date has been set, and Fette hasn’t formally been served the lawsuit, but he says he and his lawyer are prepared.

“I’m sorry he feels this way — his dad and I were in business together for many years,” Fette said. “If the lawyers want to take it to court, that’s fine, but we have every legal right to that name.”

The lawsuit basically asks Fette and his business partner, Randall Smith, to stop using the Nemo’s name entirely and seeks damages between $100,000 and $200,000.

In the affidavit, Miller claims that his store in Irving has lost business since the Denton location opened.

“Our phones have been blowing up about the store,” Miller said.

“People who work in Irving but live in Denton are saying they’ll be going there instead. ... He is so busy because he used my good name.”

Both Fette and Miller said that before the Denton location reopened, Fette and Smith went to Miller to ask whether they could buy bread from him for the shop, but Miller declined.

Both restaurants sell “sizzling steak” sandwiches, which have the same toppings and are considered the signature dish, according to the menus. They are also both served on Italian bread — Fette gets it from a local bakery, while Miller makes his in Irving.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.