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Business litigation: New Jersey Turnpike sues over pizza logo

Business litigation in New Jersey may involve an unlikely combination of litigants. For example, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority commenced a lawsuit over trademark infringement against New Jersey Boardwalk Pizza in federal court on July 21.

The Turnpike Authority claimed that the pizza logo is too similar to its Garden State Parkway Shield. It argued that Boardwalk willfully and blatantly misappropriated its registered trademark to trade upon the fame and goodwill connected to its logo to seek customers and franchisees from the state.

Both logos are green and yellow circles that contain an image map of the state in their center. The Turnpike's logo contains the words "Garden State" along its top, while Boardwalk Pizza's logo has the words "Jersey Boardwalk" in that location. The signs used by the Turnpike Authority contain the word "Parkway" and Boardwalk's signs state "Pizza Co." There are no words at the bottom of the Turnpike's logo, but the Boardwalk logo contains the phrase "Subs. Cheesesteaks. Pasta." at the bottom.

Boardwalk sells New Jersey-style pizza and has been in business since 2006. It registered its image over three years before this lawsuit. In August, its attorney threatened the filing of a countersuit against the Turnpike Authority for litigation and attorney expenses, if the lawsuit was not dismissed with prejudice within 21 days. She said that the Garden State Parkway shield is public domain, and it did not claim the logo's color when it was registered. Nonetheless, Jersey Boardwalk Pizza claimed the green and yellow colors when it registered its logo in 2011.

It also argued that the logos are not confusing because the public is clearly aware that the Turnpike Authority is not in the pizza business, and Boardwalk Pizza is not responsible for transportation. Countless other enterprises located in New Jersey utilize logos similar to the Garden State Parkway logo, according to Boardwalk.

This intellectual property dispute represents the high business and financial stakes associated with government and corporate logos and slogans. Expert advice may help prevent this type of business dispute. These battles may be costly in goodwill and financially.

Source: Florida Keys Keynoter, "Keys pizzeria's lawyer threatens countersuit against NJ Turnpike," David Goodhue, Aug. 8, 2014

Source: Florida Keys Keynoter, "Keys pizzeria's lawyer threatens countersuit against NJ Turnpike," David Goodhue, Aug. 8, 2014

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