A Park Slope pizza parlor must make it perfectly clear it’s got nothing to do with a vaunted, similar-sounding slice joint in Greenwich Village, a judge ruled.
Famous Joe’s Pizza, a melted mozzarella mecca on Carmine Street, sued Famous Joe’s Pizza of the Village on Fifth Ave. in Brooklyn, saying the copycat was trying to cash in on its crust cred and sow consumer confusion.
Brooklyn Federal Judge Brian Cogan dished out a win for Famous Joe’s Pizza on Tuesday.
Famous Joe’s Pizza of the Village can’t use the stylized lettering used by Famous Joe’s Pizza’s and or anything “confusingly similar,” said the judge’s preliminary injunction. It can’t present itself in any way to make the pizza-eating public think it was associated with Famous Joe’s Pizza, Cogan added.
Still, the Park Slope pizza place didn’t have to change its name or get a new website, because words like “Famous” and “of the Village” were generic enough, Cogan ruled.
In a city of cutthroat competition for best slice, Famous Joe’s has been getting shout-outs and all kinds of movie cameos for years — from Dom DeLuise’s 1980 “Fatso” to a “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” episode last year.
Meanwhile, Cogan noted Famous Joe’s of the Village got a “mild compliment,” when Time Out New York said in 2006 the pizza worked for drunks at 2 a.m.
Before he launched Famous Joe’s of the Village, Victor Zarco spent about 20 years working for Pino (Joe) Pozzuoli Sr. of Famous Joe’s.
Cogan said Zarco’s store had pictures of him with Pozzuoli and various big names – an effort the judge said was done to make customers think his business was linked to Pozzuoli.
Zarco could keep the photos up, as long as there was a “prominent disclaimer,” the judge ruled.
But there’s still lots of confusion, like TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews about Famous Joe’s Pizza that are posted on review pages for Famous Joe’s Pizza of the Village.
Cogan said the vying pizzerias were competitors in every sense of the term and there was “widespread consumer confusion.”
It wasn’t that Famous Joe’s of the Village was some upscale, sit-down thin-crust establishment – both sold “cheap, fast, New York City pizza by the slice,” said Cogan.
The issue is that a hungry customer might’ve been looking to “buy the slice from a different Joe’s Pizza franchise than the one he actually purchased it from.”
Lawyers for Famous Joe’s Pizza could not be reached for comment.
Zarco’s attorney said his client is satisified with the decision.
“The Pozzuolis had no problem having Mr. Zarco work around the clock as a pizza man for 15 years, including on the days when Spiderman and Sex and the City were filming there. But they wanted a judge to silence him about all that,” lawyer Bill Hochberg said.
“He doesn’t want to be part of their business. He is happy to compete with them, slice-against-slice. The litigious Pozzuoli family should now let this mozzarella melee be decided in a court of pizza opinion rather than in U.S. District Court.”
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