Today is Friday, and as usual, pizza is on my mind. Also, National Pizza Day just passed on February 9. In honor of this widely loved food, we report on a recent trademark dispute involving trademarks ROMA PIZZA and ROMA.
ROMA is a registered trademark of Bernatello’s Pizza, Inc., for frozen pizza. Timothy Bammann sought registration of ROMA PIZZA for restaurant services. Bernatello argued that because Bammann offers services from only one restaurant in Michigan, that use is insufficient to show the required “use in commerce”, i.e., interstate commerce. Intrastate use can qualify as “use in commerce” if it is of the type that has a direct effect on interstate commerce. The Board dismissed Bernatello’s argument, however, and found that the offering of services at one location is not determinative of use in interstate commerce.
Interestingly the Board found that while the marks were similar, confusion was unlikely due to the conceptual weakness of the mark ROMA, evocative of Rome, Italy. In fact, the Board in rendering the marks distinguishable even stated that “while the term PIZZA may be given less weight, it may not be ignored.” This opinion serves as a reminder that just as varied styles of pizza are not equally delicious, not all trademarks are created equal. So take care in the selection process and aim for the strongest marks, those that are arbitrary or fanciful.