April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Francis Ford Coppola sued the owner of Tavola Italian Kitchen restaurant in Novato, California, claiming the name infringes the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s “a tavola” trademark used to market his eateries.
“A tavola,” or “to the table,” is a registered trademark and Coppola’s favorite way to enjoy a meal, according to a complaint the filmmaker and his family trust filed yesterday in federal court in San Francisco. The expression means diners aren’t provided with menus and instead are served family-style dishes, according to the complaint.
Since 2008, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery and restaurants in San Francisco and Napa Valley have used the “a tavola” trademark, which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued last year, according to the complaint. Coppola’s company asked the Tavola Italian Kitchen to stop using the trademark without success, according to the complaint.
“We’re struggling to stay alive, and now we have this, one of the biggest names in American history step on us?” said Anthony Pirraglia, the father of the family that owns Tavola Italian Kitchen. “They don’t have anything else to do? It’s incredible.”
Coppola’s company claims Tavola Italian Kitchen’s infringement is “likely to cause confusion” with Coppola’s trademark, especially because it is located 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Coppola’s winery. The winery’s website refers to “a tavola” to promote a “casual dining experience” every Tuesday.
‘Tavola’ Used Widely
Pirraglia said in a phone interview yesterday that his family used the word “tavola” because they liked it. The word is generic and used so widely in the restaurant business, it’s surprising Coppola was able to trademark it, he said. The family picked the name nine months ago in an attempt to revitalize the restaurant, which was losing money under a different name and menu, he said.
“We’re a small 70-seat restaurant in a shopping center,” Pirraglia said. It’s “absurd” to claim that someone might drive by and in confusion think that it’s Francis Ford Coppola’s estate, he said.
Pirraglia said he’s unsure how he’ll respond to the lawsuit given how much his family has invested in the sign, menus and local advertising for the Novato restaurant.
2010 Trademark Suit
In 2010, Coppola brought a trademark-infringement suit against Spanish winery Casas Naveran in federal court in Austin, Texas, and in a settlement won a court order barring the Barcelona winemaker from using a label on its white and rose wines that Coppola said was a copy of the “Sofia” label he uses on wines he began making in 1999 in honor of his daughter, actress and director Sofia Coppola.
Naveran twice sent Coppola redesigned labels in response to a cease-and-desist letter Coppola sent in 2009, which the filmmaker argued in court documents remained “confusingly and substantially similar” to his Sophia labels.
Coppola sought money damages, an award of profits the defendant derived from the alleged infringement, attorney fees and litigation costs, and asked that the damages be tripled to punish the Spanish winery for its alleged infringement. Court documents don’t explain what Naveran paid.
Two Coppola films in the 1970s won Oscars for best picture: “The Godfather” and “The Godfather: Part II.” Three others made in that decade were nominated for best picture: “The Conversation,” “American Graffiti” and “Apocalypse Now.”
The case is Trustees of the Coppola Family Trust v. Torg Holding Corp., 12-cv-1646, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
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