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Patsy’s Italian Restaurant Inc. v. Banas Shows Importance of Trademark Law in New York City

A recent appeal between two restaurants with the name Patsy stems from allegations of trademark and unfair competition in New York City based on the name of the restaurant.

These matters and others between businesses must be taken seriously because these issues are the very lifeblood of a company. If a business’ very name is being ripped off by another, it must be defended. If consumers can get confused by the name of a business, that can translate to lost dollars and loss of value in the marketplace.
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In this case, Patsy’s Italian Restaurant, Inc., et al. v. Banas, et al., the owners of Patsy’s Italian Restaurant got into a legal battle with Patsy’s Pizzeria over the name “Patsy’s.” At issue was whether each chain of Italian food and pizza fraudulently obtained trademark registrations from the Patent and Trademark Office.

The lower court also refused to reinstate Patsy’s Pizzeria’s trademark registrations. Both sides then appealed and yet the appeals court upheld the lower court’s rulings. After years of litigation, the panel of judges ruled that neither establishment can use the name “Patsy’s” as its own.

According to the New York Post’s account, the jury found that a Long Island franchise of Patsy’s Pizzeria was using the name of Patsy’s Italian Restaurant. Both restaurants claimed the late Frank Sinatra loved their food best. A Brooklyn judge ruled that neither establishment could use the name “Patsy’s” alone and required the pizzeria to put a sign on the door saying the two weren’t affiliated.

Patsy’s Pizzeria claims it was the first to sell pizza by the slice, while Patsy’s Italian Restaurant claims to have the blessing of Sinatra.

While Patsy’s Italian Restaurant has been operating since 1944 and Patsy’s Pizzeria since 1933, both have existed without lawsuits until recently, the appellate court’s ruling states. In 1998, both began selling packaged sauce under the name “Patsy’s,” which caused “considerable consumer confusion,” the judges wrote.

And they both sought to have the other company’s trademark cancelled. It was difficult to determine which company entered the sauce market first as the alleged date was “clearly falsified,” the court wrote.

Because of these issues, the two companies have gone through years of litigation in trying to protect their brand and to make sure customers don’t get confused about where to spend their precious dollars. Every market is competitive and therefore, a business must do all that it can to protect itself.

That can range from official complaints to full-scale lawsuits. Properly written contracts, licensing agreements and intellectual property matters are all issues that must be ironclad for a company to continue on successfully. Once one company has found a niche or is doing well, others will catch on and try to emulate the product or the strategy in order to latch on and make money themselves.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides trademark and business law legal counseling in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

More Blog Entries:

Tavern On The Green Trademark Battle Ends in New York City: May 26, 2011
Additional Resources:

‘Patsy’s’ restaurant dispute was well-done: appeals court, by Bruce Golding, New York Post