Famous Filmmaker Sues San Francisco Eatery for Trademark Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on April 19, 2012

pizza-thumb-200x137-39943San Diego – Francis Ford Coppola, the famous film director, producer, and screenwriter responsible for creating The Godfather epics, is suing the owner of a California restaurant for trademark infringement. Coppola is claiming that the owner of Tavola Italian Kitchen restaurant in Novato is infringing the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s “a tavola” trademark he uses to market his own restaurants.

According to the complaint, filed by Coppola and his family trust in a San Francisco federal court, “A tavola” is a registered trademark, which in Italian means restaurant patrons aren’t provided with dinner menus and instead are served family-style Italian dishes. Coppola registered “A tavola” as a trademark because it is his favorite way to enjoy a meal and he also uses it to market his eateries located at his winery in Napa Valley and in San Francisco.

Coppola’s complaint states that his restaurants have used the trademark since 2008, with the United States Patent and Trademark Office issuing a registration for last year. Reportedly, the filmmaker’s company had sent a cease and desist letter to Tavola Italian Kitchen asking it to stop using the name, to no avail.

The trademark infringement complaint contends that due to the close proximity between Tavola Italian Kitchen and Coppola’s restaurant (within fifty miles), the defendant’s use of the name will likely cause a confusion with patrons. Coppola’s winery’s website refers to “a tavola” to promote its casual dining venue each Tuesday night.

“We’re struggling to stay alive, and now we have this, one of the biggest names in American history steps on us?” stated Anthony Pirraglia, owner of Tavola Italian Kitchen. “They don’t have anything else to do? It’s incredible.”

Pirraglia also said he was surprised that Coppola was able to trademark the Italian term since it is so generic and widely used by restaurants all over. He added that his family chose the name for the restaurant nine months ago in an attempt to revitalize the small, flailing eatery located in a shopping mall.

“We’re a small, seventy-seat restaurant in a shopping center,” Pirraglia said, adding that “it’s absurd” to claim that consumers would be confused that it’s Francis Ford Coppola’s estate.

In 2010, Coppola successfully sued a Spanish winery in Texas for trademark infringement. Casas Naveran winery in Austin was ordered to scrap its label used on its rose and white wines that Coppola alleged was a copy of the “Sofia” label he uses on wines in honor of his daughter, actress and director Sofia Coppola. Coppola was reportedly awarded undisclosed monetary damages, profits, attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.

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