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 But on on the restaurant logo, “Garden State Parkway” has been replaced by “Jersey Boardwalk Pizza Co.” with the words “Subs.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.

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Companies: jersey boardwalk pizza

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Comments on “Sanity: Trademark Suit Rules That Florida Pizza Joints Don't Compete With The NJ Turnpike”

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Christopher Best (profile) says:

Re: Technically Speaking...

Crap hit the wrong key…

Anywho, as a recent New Jersey escapee, I feel compelled to point out the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike are actually completely separate entities. To be clear, the Atlantic City Expressway is managed by a third public/private entity, SJTA, and should also not be confused with either of them.

Just giving you a heads up before one of said organizations files suit against you for associating them with the other…

Dan Cummings says:

GSP not same as NJT

“As you can see, the pizza place’s logo is a clear homage to that of the Garden State Parkway, the group that runs the New Jersey Turnpike.”

NO. The Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike are two absolutely separate highways in New Jersey (The Garden State). They cross one another SW of Staten Island, but that’s their only physical connection.

The turnpike goes from the George Washington Bridge (to NYC) south to the Delaware Memorial Bridge (to Wilmington, Delaware). Confusingly, it has two number designations (I-95, I-295) in different spots and elsewhere is simply the New Jersey Turnpike. The GSP, meanwhile, runs from I-87 in New York State and then down the Jersey Shore to Atlantic City and on down to Cape May.

Anonymous Coward says:


The court didn’t decide this case on trademark grounds, as your article suggests. It dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. The quote you pulled is part of the courts explanation for why there wasn’t jurisdiction in New Jersey over two guys from Florida. Also, this wasn’t a case before the Trademark Appeal Board, as the article suggests. At least skim the case before you write up the post.

Christopher (profile) says:

Congratulations, you all missed the point.

It’s not about NJTA (which manages NJ TPKE and GSP) fighting another pizza competitor. It’s about borrowing a logo in existence for 50-60 years to sell pizza, in effect trading on the national recognition of one entity to promote your business.

Whether that has legal merit or not, whether they then choose to go the copyright route (where I suspect they will enjoy more success) is left to be seen. To characterize this disingenuously as “pizza versus highway” is lazy high school writing.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Congratulations, you all missed the point.

You missed the point. There’s no “national recognition” of a local road sign. And there’s no law prohibiting them from using a similar logo for their pizza. You can’t copyright a logo, you trademark it. Other than using similar colors (GSP doesn’t own green and yellow) and designs (GSP doesn’t own the silhouette or shape of New Jersey), the fonts and wording are different. Would a moron in a hurry mistake a highway for a pizza? That’s all that needs to be decided. Next…

Jack says:

Re: Re:

Well, you would have a TON of pizza by the time you got home especially if you live in central NJ since there are an assload of tolls on the parkway through that stretch. At least the $1.50 you toss in the bucket for driving over the Edison bridge heading south wouldn’t feel like you were getting bent over so much if you got some pizza.

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