Griffith Hack trade mark specialists are serving up their thoughts on recent food and beverage trade mark disputes.

Special delivery served to @pizza by &pizza

&pizza is a well-known pizza chain business on the United States’ (US) east coast, famous its oval shaped pizzas.

@pizza, a pizza restaurant chain from the United Kingdom (UK) in Glasgow, Scotland and England, also sell oval shaped pizzas.

&pizza’s owners initiated legal proceedings against the British @pizza business alleging copyright, trade mark infringement and trespassing. They claim @pizza’s owners visited an &pizza restaurant in Washington in the US, taken photographs of the oval shaped pizzas without permission, copied the &pizza website and promotional materials and mimicked these to create their @pizza in the UK.

The American &pizza business was ultimately not successful in the legal proceedings. The Court found that the acts of infringement did not occur in the US jurisdiction and that @pizza’s conduct in taking photos of the oval pizzas without permission and copying the interior layout of the restaurant was neither a breach of copyright or trespassing.

Although the Court conceded @pizza’s actions could negatively impact on &pizza’s business, US courts do not have the power to grant injunctions that carry an ‘extraterritorial effect’. Therefore, if &pizza wished to pursue @pizza further, it should initiate proceedings in the UK.

This case certainly demonstrates a fine line between imitation being the greatest form of flattery and cunning (or bad faith) business practice.

KFC's COVID pivot

KFC recently announced that it will temporarily cease use of its tagline to promote their products given the contradiction to public health advice amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent promotions, KFC blurred the tagline so that “IT’S GOOD” are the only legible words.

First adopted in 1952 the tagline, “IT’S FINGER LICKIN’ GOOD”, is synonymous with KFC’s global brand. However, KFC believes the concept is contrary to the current climate in which face masks, sanitising hands and the avoidance of hand-to-face contact is the norm.

If KFC is to preserve the slogan’s trade mark registration, they will need to be careful to avoid a perceived abandonment of the trade mark. This case study demonstrates how the perception of a trade mark (regardless of its popularity) is often subject to external and uncontrollable factors. How companies manage and respond in these situations is critical to whether they continue to maintain a positive perception in public (a great ‘non-food’ related example of this scenario can be found here).