You’re driving over the ocean in the Florida Keys when suddenly you get a hankering for a slice of pizza. Unfortunately, there’s not a toll booth in sight. Suddenly, off in the distance you spot what you think is a sign for a New Jersey turnpike toll both. “Yes!” you exclaim, “Now I can finally get me some of that deep dish goodness.” Little do you know that the signpost up ahead isn’t really for a New Jersey turnpike. No, it’s for a Jersey Boardwalk pizzeria. Halfway through your lunch, it suddenly occurs to you that what you are eating is a medium deep dish sausage and pepperoni pizza, not a toll booth. Too late, you realize that the signpost you’d seen while you were driving the Oversea Highway in the Florida Keys was not directing you to a New Jersey turnpike toll booth at all. It was directing you to … The Trademark Zone.
It’s true: The New Jersey Turnpike Authority really has filed a federal lawsuit against a Florida pizzeria for trademark infringement. It claims the pizzeria’s mark is so similar to the turnpike authority’s mark that people will mistakenly assume the pizza is connected in some way with the New Jersey turnpike authority. It accuses the pizzeria of trading on the good will of the New Jersey turnpike authority. Accordingly, the agency is suing the pizzeria of infringement and unfair competition under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, service mark dilution, common law trademark infringement, and unfair competition under N.J. Stat. Ann. 56:4-1. It is seeking an injunction, compensatory damages, and treble damages.
The pizza company brazenly contends that no one in his right mind would confuse a pizzeria with a government agency responsible for collecting highway tolls.
Who will win? Taxpayers, of course, will lose, but it’s still too early to tell whether the pizza company will, too. When it comes to courts these days, anything can happen. Reality is increasingly becoming confusingly similar to fantasy/horror.
But really: trading on the “good will” of the New Jersey turnpike authority? Come on.