Sanity: Trademark Suit Rules That Florida Pizza Joints Don't Compete With The NJ Turnpike
from the baby-steps dept
While the trademark litigation landscape is littered with lame filings, lamentable rulings, and a litany of liberal interpretations of the law (alliteration!), it’s worth noting when we also see sane rulings on trademark lawsuits. So allow me to bring you the news of a federal ruling that acknowledges the fringe and controversial understanding of Florida and New Jersey being very separate and not two entities likely to be confused.
It all started, as most great things, with pizza. Two Florida residents, originally from New Jersey, decided to open up some pizza restaurants. With tastes harkening back to their Northeast roots, Jersey Boardwalk Pizza in Florida decided to play off the logo of the Garden State Parkway logo, as you can see below.
As you can see, the pizza place’s logo is a clear homage to that of the Garden State Parkway, which is managed by the NJ Turnupike Authority. There’s simply no disputing it. And, if you had only a minimal understanding of how trademark law works, you might not be surprised that the Turnpike filed a trademark suit against the pizza-slingers over the similarities.
The authority’s suit, filed last week, alleges service mark infringement, unfair competition and other claims against Jersey Boardwalk Pizza. The restaurant’s logo has the same green-and-yellow color scheme, including an outline of the state, as the Parkway sign. But on on the restaurant logo, “Garden State Parkway” has been replaced by “Jersey Boardwalk Pizza Co.” with the words “Subs. Cheesesteaks. Pasta” below that.
The suit claims the restaurant’s logo is so similar to the Parkway sign as to give the impression that the two are linked, the Journal said.
Regular readers here are probably already either laughing or shaking their heads. The New Jersey Turnpike is many things, and not all of them bad, but I’m having trouble thinking of a scenario in which someone thought it sold pizzas. Couple that with the fact that these pizza spots are located solely in Florida, which is demonstrably a different location and market than New Jersey, and the whole thing gets sillier.
Fortunately, the judge presiding over the federal case agrees, having recently dismissed the case completely.
Judge William Martini dismissed the suit filed by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority against Jersey Boardwalk Pizza, saying the Florida business had “minimum contacts” with state residents aside from online sales of branded merchandise.
“Although Plaintiff may have felt the brunt of harm in New Jersey, it could not be said that New Jersey is the focal point of the offending activity,” Martini wrote in his decision.
“The defendants are a Florida company that doesn’t do any business in New Jersey,” said Justin Klein, the attorney who represents Jersey Boardwalk Pizza. “We’re happy with the outcome and hopefully we can put this behind us and focus on our business.”
This would normally be the end of the matter, an end where one would hope the folks a the Turnpike Authority had learned their lesson, and perhaps a bit about how trademark law works. Not so, unfortunately, what with a spokesman for the Turnpike indicating that they would pursue the matter further and look for legal options outside of the Trademark Appeal Board.
Keep digging, I guess, but I’m still certain Florida and New Jersey ain’t the same place.