(Reuters) - While its meatball pizzas and hoagies might mimic the pleasures of the Jersey Shore, it’s the logo of a Florida Keys pizzeria that the New Jersey Turnpike Authority says goes too far in evoking the Garden State.
The agency this week sued Jersey Boardwalk Pizza in New Jersey federal court, saying its logo “directly copied and appropriated” that of the Garden State Parkway. The restaurant’s merchandise and fact that pizzas are sold in the turnpike’s service areas could confuse consumers, it said.
“There’s no way someone is going to mistake my logo for that of the parkway - we’re 1,300 miles away,” said Paul DiMatteo, co-owner of the Tavernier, Florida, restaurant, which also has a franchise in Florida City.
“We’re a pizza shop, they’re the road department,” he said. “It’s two completely different identities.”
Both logos are circular, yellow-and-green, with a rendering of the state in the middle. In the shop’s design, “Jersey Boardwalk Pizza” replaces “Garden State Parkway,” with the addition of “Subs. Cheesesteaks. Pasta.”
“They’re similar logos, but that’s not the issue,” the pizzeria’s attorney JoyAnn Kenny said. “They’re not identical. So the focus is on whether there would be a likelihood of confusion.”
After the turnpike authority began sending it cease-and-desist letters in April, the restaurant applied to register its logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to the complaint.
The agency is asking the court to force the pizzeria to stop using the logo, hand over the profits derived from it, and other unspecified damages.
DiMatteo said he did not understand why the agency was targeting him when there were many other examples of the logo’s use, noting an Internet search turned up images of various businesses, sports teams and other groups with similar logo designs.
“You’re supposed to be proud of where you came from,” said DiMatteo, who grew up in New Jersey. “That’s all we’re doing, we’re just saying we’re a Jersey pizzeria.”
Attorneys for the authority could not be reached for comment.
The case is New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. Jersey Boardwalk Franchising Co, Inc, Jersey Boardwalk Pizza Corp, and Boardwalk Pizza, Inc, No. 14-cv-04589.
Reporting By Andrew Chung; Editing by Ted Botha and Tom Brown