Have you ever confused a slice of pizza with an exit sign on the highway? The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is coming down hard on a local pizza chain in Florida for using a logo very similar to one of their own. “Jersey Boardwalk Pizza Co.” owners Paul DiMatteo and Skip Parratt are in the process of franchising their restaurants while incorporating a green-and-yellow logo similar to that of the Garden State Parkway’s, which is a main highway in the state of New Jersey. The step-brothers are both former NJ residents and claimed they were simply paying homage to their home state, but the Turnpike Authority thinks otherwise. COO John O’Hern stands firmly behind the lawsuit, claiming the logo is trademarked and the pizza company is in violation.
DiMatteo and Parratt recently fired back against the NJTA, wondering why it’s taken almost 10 years for any bad feedback. The lawsuit comes as a surprise to them both, who also add that many others use a spin-off version of the Parkway logo for more profitable purposes. O’Hern drives the point home that there can be no exceptions to the trademark, offering the example of a “go-go bar” or strip club wanting to use the iconic highway image, and that they can’t play favorites with their own intellectual property. To further complicate the issue, Jersey Boardwalk Pizza Co. recently filed a request to expand their franchise and open more restaurants in the area, likely drumming up attention north on the east coast. New Jersey and Florida residents both remain split on the issue and have taken to social media to voice their concerns.
This issue seems more complicated than it looks. On the surface, it seems the representatives of the Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike are grouchy, grumpy folks who don’t want to share an image which Jersey residents associate with hot summer nights “down the shore”. In the same token, Florida’s pizza guys are just trying to reference the state that they love and promote that style of food in a new location. The controversy lies in the fact that JBPC’s plan is to expand and open up new restaurants, compounding the problem of using a trademarked image. At the end of the day, it appears NJTA has every right to protect their authenticity, regardless of how delicious a margarita-style pie (with crushed red pepper) tastes.