Trademark of Generic Pizza

pizza boxNot every business can afford to promote their products with excessive branding of all their packaging. This is the reason that many Asian restaurants in my neighborhood use a generic “Delicious Chinese Food” box despite that it’s contents are not necessarily Chinese or delicious. The same is true for the generic pizza box, which often proclaims something like “Fresh Piping Hot Pizza” regardless of whether its fresh or hot.
I saw something new in this realm last week when, after consuming a large amount of truly delicious pizza at a rather anonymous restaurant in Boston’s north end, I asked for a to-go box to take home some remaining slices. The box was not labeled with the name of the restaurant or the box maker, but strangely purported to establish trademark protection in its logo!
I think most trademark lawyers would agree with the USPTO’s one-line definition of a trademark: “A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.”
The maker of this mark is not only allowing, but promoting the mark to be associated with all kinds of different pizza makers. Surely the association of the mark with a particular source is one of the fundamental requirements of trademark protection. What’s the source of this box?

5 thoughts on “Trademark of Generic Pizza”

  1. The trademark isn’t for the restaraunt, it is for the box vendor. The customer being protected from source confusion isn’t you, it is restaraunts that buy the box.

  2. It’s plausible, but it’s a really weak argument. I think it’d be hard to argue that the mark “fresh taste at a great price” indicates the source of a box. If the manufacturer really meant to protect their brand, they would have come up with a brand name to protect. I bet pizza restaurants would have a very hard time identifying the source of the box based on the mark. If the box said something like “Johnson Box Co (TM)” it would be a different case.
    My theory is that the designer of the logo intended to prevent others from copying that logo. There is at least thin copyright protection in the image regardless of notice, so the artist already has protection. The artist is asserting the wrong protection.

  3. Wow, for a guy with no job, you sure are confident about deriding others’ “weak” arguments. I think the whole point of trademarking the box logo is to prevent other box makers from appropriating the logo and selling it to pizza places on their own.
    The box with the picture and the logo must be at least marginally add value for the pizza places or they would just buy plain white boxes (and some places do), which are presumably easier and cheaper to manufacture.

  4. I fail to see the connection between my employment status and the argument. I certainly didn’t mean anything personal by calling your argument weak. (How could I? You’re anonymous!)
    I have no doubt that someone wanted protection and believed the logo to be valuable, my issue is with the method they’ve chosen to assert protection.

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