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 But on on the restaurant logo, “Garden State Parkway” has been replaced by "Jersey Boardwalk Pizza Co.” with the words “Subs.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


Reader Comments

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  • icon
    Christopher Best (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 7:40pm

    Technically Speaking...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Christopher Best (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 7:43pm

      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...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 6:08am

        Re: Re: Technically Speaking...

        You should have gone with your first answer, since it was the correct one. They're NOT separate entities. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority runs the Garden State Parkway. http://www.state.nj.us/turnpike/

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 9:26am

          Re: Re: Re: Technically Speaking...

          Now I'm really confused...

          So Jersey Turnpike Authority runs the Garden State Parkway that sells pizza in Florida?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Christopher Best (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 1:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: Technically Speaking...

          Mea Culpa. Didn't realize the consolidated the two organizations... Twelve years ago...

          Still, they are different highways (with different signs).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dan Cummings, 30 Mar 2015 @ 9:51pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 6:06am

      Re: GSP not same as NJT

      Try and pay attention. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority runs BOTH the New Jersey Turnpike, and the Garden State Parkway.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Vidiot (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 6:29am

        Re: Re: GSP not same as NJT

        Point of confusion: Tim inadvertently inverts the relationship:

        "... the Garden State Parkway, the group that runs the New Jersey Turnpike..."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Dark Helmet (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 11:17am

          Re: Re: Re: GSP not same as NJT

          Correct, I did that once in the article, and I've now corrected it. The other suggestions of error in the post I would argue were incorrect, but this inverse job I mistakenly did was my fault and it's been updated in the post.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 10:24pm

    No.

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2015 @ 11:25pm

    Man vs. the System

    A family business successfully defends itself from a public authority with a legal itch. This should be the end, but no. The public authority turns predatory and the full weight of the system will be thrown behind it. This is not about Justice. It's about justification.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    McCrea (profile), 30 Mar 2015 @ 11:41pm

    What's that smell?

    I thought "Jersey Turnpike Pizza" was a colloquialism for roadkill.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dwisintia, 31 Mar 2015 @ 1:04am

    Obat Jantung Bocor Tradisional

    family business successfully defends itself from a public authority with a legal itch. This should be the end, but no. The public authority turns predatory and the full weight of the system will be thrown behind it. This is not about Justice. It's about justification.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dwisintia, 31 Mar 2015 @ 1:05am

    Obat Jantung Bocor Tradisional

    This should be the end, but no. The public authority turns predatory and the full weight of the system will be thrown behind it. This is not about Justice. It's about justification.
    http://obatjantungbocortradisional1.blogspot.com/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Beech, 31 Mar 2015 @ 2:09am

    Unfair competition

    I was totally going to go hop on the NJ Turnpike the other day, but instead I bought a pizza and drove over it a couple times. I can totally see how it's unfair competition!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Christopher (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 6:04am

    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.

    -C

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 6:12am

      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...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2015 @ 9:39am

        Re: Re: Congratulations, you all missed the point.

        First, I suspect there are plenty of people who recognize the logo in Florida. Second, there is nothing preventing copyright protection for a logo, which may also be protected by trademark law.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 6:06am

    You too can become a highly paid idiot

    You too can become a highly paid idiot. Just get a law degree!

    Of course, not all lawyers are idiots - mine isn't even though he plays the banjo! :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    yankinwaoz (profile), 31 Mar 2015 @ 1:48pm

    But we all missed the point. The GSP was planning on selling pizzas to drivers at the toll booths. Very clever. The plan is to order your pizza when leave work, and they will toss it in your car window as you roll through the toll both on the way home. Thus when you arrive home, dinner is served!

    What could possibly go wrong?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Jack, 31 Mar 2015 @ 2:53pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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