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State Agency-Sponsored Pizza? TTAB Rules on New Jersey Turnpike Authority's Trademark Opposition

May 18, 2018
Post by Nicholas J. Krob

Do you often find yourself asking which highway management state agency has the best pizza? Or do you ever show up to a pizza chain, disappointed it isn’t a highway management state agency? If not, a recent decision by the USPTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board will likely make some sense to you.

In 2014, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority—the state agency responsible for maintaining the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway — brought an opposition proceeding seeking to prevent registration of Jersey Boardwalk Franchising Co., Inc.’s pending trademark application for a design similar to the Turnpike Authority’s trademarked Garden State Parkway logo. The Turnpike Authority claimed that Jersey Boardwalk’s design, which all but copies the Garden State Parkway logo while replacing the words “Garden State Parkway” with “Jersey Boardwalk Pizza Co. Subs, Cheesesteaks, Pasta” for use in relation to Jersey Boardwalk’s restaurants, was likely to cause confusion to consumers and should thus not be federally registered.

Importantly, questions of consumer confusion in the trademark context involve more than just the similarity of two marks. Rather, it is a multi-factored analysis. Paramount to such an analysis is the consideration of the goods and services for which each mark is used. The idea is that two marks, no matter how similar, are generally unlikely to confuse a consumer as to the source of a good or service when they are used in entirely different contexts. Despite the Turnpike Authority’s arguments to the contrary, this was the case here.

In a non-precedential opinion published by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board last week, the Board ruled that the Turnpike Authority’s goods and services are so unrelated to Jersey Boardwalk’s that any confusion as to source would be unlikely. Notably, the Turnpike Authority’s trademark registration for the Garden State Parkway logo is for “highway management and maintenance services” and “travel information services,” unlike the proposed trademark’s “restaurant services.” The Board noted that it had no “evidence showing that those who manage and maintain highways frequently also offer or sponsor restaurant services under the same mark”. Accordingly, despite the marks’ admitted similarity, there is little likelihood of confusion and the two marks can coexist.

A copy of the opinion can be found here.

Nicholas Krob is an Intellectual Property Attorney at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit www.ipmvs.com or contact Nick directly via email at nicholas.krob@ipmvs.com.


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The attorneys of McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. designed this blog as an informational and educational resource about intellectual property law for our clients, other attorneys, and the public as a whole. Our goal is to provide cutting-edge information about recent developments in intellectual property law, including relevant case law updates, proposed legislation, and intellectual property law in the news.

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