Broadway Play Changes Set Design Over Cafe Trademark Threat And, No, That Doesn't Make Any Damned Sense

from the bronx-cheer dept

When you write enough about trademark disputes, a recurring thing that happens is you keep thinking you’ve seen it all, but then something insane happens. And truly, after years of writing here at Techdirt, I’ve come across some mind-bending trademark disputes. But I can’t think of a single one that matches the Broadway version of A Bronx Tale changing its set design to appease a cafe owner who insists he is a monarch of Italian pastries.

Little Italy pastry shop owner John “Baby John” Delutro of Caffé Palermo asked Broadway’s “A Bronx Tale” to remove a sign on its set that dubs another pastry joint “The Cannoli King,” infringing on his trademark.

The show — a coming-of-age story about an Italian kid growing up in the Bronx during the socially segregated 1960s — is currently crediting Arthur Ave. pastry shop Gino’s with the coveted cream-filled title on one of its storefront signs in the set.

The lawyer for “A Bronx Tale” refused to comment, but producers for the show said they plan to re-paint the sign.

Can you smell that? It’s the scent of crazy wafting into your nostrils, because nothing about this makes any sense. First, the real-world trademark ownership of a phrase like “The Cannoli King” has zero purchase on the fictional realm of the play. A play which, by the way, is set in the 1960s, and merely included a streetside set design with a restaurant with the trademarked phrase painted on it. There’s no use in commerce to talk about, nor is there any customer confusion at hand. In fact, the only reason the play points to Gino’s in the Bronx at all is that the owner of that pastry shop does indeed use that moniker and it’s in the Bronx, whereas Delutro’s business is in Manhattan. Delutro is also going after Gino’s for use of the phrase, which, you know, fine, but there is no reason to have ever pushed the Broadway play to change its set design.

Again, it’s a fictional world, rendering any customer confusion null and void, thus invalidating any trademark dispute reared by the trademark owner. Just to put a bow on this, Delutro opened his business in the 70s, the decade after the setting for the play. I understand that the producers of the play likely just wanted this all to go away, but they could just as easily have laughed the threat off entirely, because it’s without merit.

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Comments on “Broadway Play Changes Set Design Over Cafe Trademark Threat And, No, That Doesn't Make Any Damned Sense”

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Daydream says:

One of these days, this is going to conflict with product placement.

Think about it. Rights licensing is a tangled mess these days.
If you get paid to promote a product in your movie or play or such, there’s no guarantee that you won’t be sued later by someone else who thinks they have the distribution rights, or by whoever paid you in the first place if they lose the documentation.

It’ll come to the point that it’s not safe to promote anyone’s products anymore, not even in advertising.

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