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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  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 27 Mar 2017 @ 6:16pm

    He is like one of those little old ladies who would beat a soap opera actor about the head with a purse for what he did to that nice young girl on TV.

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

  • identicon
    Daydream, 27 Mar 2017 @ 6:27pm

    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.

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

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 27 Mar 2017 @ 8:10pm

    One Pastry to Rule Them All

    "Trolli Cannoli" apparently means "controls cannoli".

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

  • identicon
    Christenson, 27 Mar 2017 @ 8:51pm

    Trolli Cannoli, indeed!

    Love it!

    Now, the production should make a point of making sure no one is confused about who *doesn't* own the trademark...how about a mobster saying:

    Too bad I OWN the word cannoli...too bad if something were to happen to your nice little business there, like getting dragged into court!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2017 @ 9:36pm

    I know why!

    You know why trademark disputes are so bitter?
    Because there's so little at stake.

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

  • icon
    Toestubber (profile), 27 Mar 2017 @ 11:06pm

    Moral cowardice

    I understand that the producers of the play likely just wanted this all to go away

    So by caving to a legal shakedown, they empower this scumbag and make the world a slightly worse place for everyone else.

    Is that the moral of A Bronx Tale? Can't remember.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Mar 2017 @ 1:36am

      Re: Moral cowardice

      What the did probably comes down to how much it would cost them to fight in court. Just look at how much effort this site is in to raising the money necessary to fight a case brought by some with delusions of importance to the history of email.

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

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 28 Mar 2017 @ 2:03am

      Re: Moral cowardice

      Well to apply a Little Italy stereotype, who's to say there wasn't an illegal shakedown as well?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Mar 2017 @ 9:31am

      Re: Moral cowardice

      So by caving to a legal shakedown, they empower this scumbag and make the world a slightly worse place for everyone else.

      The alternative is to continue to give a scumbag free advertising. I wouldn't want to do it after receiving a threat.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Mar 2017 @ 3:22am

    Something something all the lawyers.

    The lawyers who told the client this was a good thing needs to be punished. Being a lawyer means you have to advocate for your client, you don't have to do whatever they demand if its stupid.

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

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 28 Mar 2017 @ 10:18am

      Re:

      I've been saying this same thing every time we hear about a case like this.
      Either the lawyer doesn't know about copyright, in which case, he needs to go back to law school.
      Or he *does* know the law and he's ignoring it to take the client's money.

      Either way, wouldn't this be some kind of ethics violation?

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


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