New Jersey Turnpike Authority sues Plantation Key pizza parlor over name

It’s pizza vs. the highway.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Plantation Key's Jersey Boardwalk Pizza. The suit, filed July 21 in New Jersey federal court, claims the mile marker 90.5 pizza and sandwich shop’s logo is too similar to the Garden State Parkway logo. Both circular logos are green with a yellow border.

The turnpike’s logo says “Garden State” along the top, while Boardwalk’s says “Jersey Boardwalk.” The middle of the Turnpike Authority’s logo say’s “Parkway” while Boardwalk’s says “Pizza Co.” The Turnpike Authority logo has no words along the bottom of the circle; Boardwalk’s says “Subs. Cheesesteaks. Pasta.”

Both logos contain an image of the map of New Jersey in their center.

The lawsuit states Boardwalk “willfully and blatantly misappropriated” the turnpike's registered trademark “in an effort to trade upon the fame and goodwill associated with” the turnpike’s logo and “to attract customers and potential franchisees from the state of New Jersey.”

Thomas Feeney, a Turnpike Authority spokesman, said the lawsuit came about because Boardwalk’s franchising company, Jersey Boardwalk Franchising Co. Inc., says on its website that it aims to open franchises throughout the East Coast.

“This is not just about some pizza joint in the Keys,” Feeney said.

JoyAnn Kenny, Boardwalk’s attorney, blasted the lawsuit, saying, “I would think that a better use of taxpayer funds would be to focus expenditures on the condition and safety of our highways rather than to fund a lawsuit against a Florida pizza restaurant.”

Feeney said the agency’s lawyer sent a letter to Boardwalk owners Paul Dimatteo and George Platt asking them to stop using the logo, but the company has not taken it down from its website or from outside its South Florida locations in Plantation Key and Florida City.

“They refused. And here we are,” Feeney said.

Boardwalk opened on Plantation Key in 2006 and has been using a similar logo ever since, Kenny said. The original simply stated “Boardwalk Pizza,” which has since been updated to say “Jersey Boardwalk Pizza.”

“There is clearly no plausible likelihood of confusion among patrons of the restaurant, or prospective franchises, as to any affiliation or association with the N.J. Turnpike Authority,” Kenny said in an e-mail. “That proposition is simply ridiculous.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Jersey Boardwalk Pizza a federal registration for its logo in 2011.

Kenny added that there are “countless businesses right here in New Jersey making use of the logo and various renditions thereof in connection with all sorts of goods and services.”

Feeney said that unless Boardwalk changes its logo, the Turnpike Authority’s lawsuit will continue.

“We wish the owners well in their effort to spread the joy of New Jersey-style pizza along the East Coast,” Feeney said. “But we’re going to insist that they come up with their own logo rather than using ours.”