Court Rules You Can’t Trademark Flavor
A federal judge has ruled that, no matter how good your baked ziti may taste, its flavor isn’t protected under trademark laws.
The ruling stems from a lawsuit by Russo’s New York Pizzeria, who claimed that Gina’s Italian Kitchen – a rival launched by a former employee – infringed on its intellectual property by copying the “trademark flavor of its products.”
United States Circuit Judge Gregg Costa dismissed that claim stating “it is unlikely flavors can ever be inherently distinctive,” citing a previous ruling that “flavor is generally seen as a characteristic of the goods, rather than a trademark.” He continued, writing that a flavor would also have to prove that it is not a “functional” product feature to be worthy of trademark status. As Costa plainly states, since people eat to “satisfy their basic hunger needs,” proving flavor isn’t a “functional element of the product” would be difficult.
To recap the ruling with less legal mumbo jumbo: No matter how special Grandma says her marinara sauce is, from the standpoint of the US Federal Court system, she’s full of crap.
Gina’s Italian Kitchen isn’t out of the woods yet. Requests to dismiss two other claims against them from Russo’s New York Pizzeria were denied.
It’s also worth noting that Russo’s New York Pizzeria is based in Texas, not New York. Whether or not they see the irony in challenging another restaurant’s authenticity is not mentioned in the court ruling.