The state of New Jersey (the “Garden State”) is known for many things — among them Springsteen, Sinatra, beaches, chemical refineries, and its highways, particularly those just outside New York City. The state is so well known for its highways that when someone declares they’re from New Jersey, inevitably someone follows with: “What exit?” (Rimshot, please!)
So it may come as no surprise that a New Jersey company might want to give a hat tip to one of those infamous NJ highways — like the Garden State Parkway. Enter Old York Cellars, based in Ringoes, NJ, which sells What Exit Wines. The winery received a cease-and-desist order from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority over its green-and-yellow logo, which bears a colorful similarity to the logo of the Garden State Parkway. Now the winery is fighting back by filing a declaratory judgment, which is on its way to a New Jersey federal court. Is there a likelihood of confusion between a winery and a highway? Here are the two logos:
New Jersey Law Journal points to an earlier case involving the Garden State Parkway sign where the Turnpike Authority sued a pizzeria in Florida whose logo resembled the Parkway sign. The case was dismissed by a federal judge for lack of personal jurisdiction against the defendant, but it’s continuing in the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB), with the Turnpike Authority opposing the pizzeria’s application to register its green-and-yellow logos.
In another case, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority won a TTAB judgment canceling the trademark registration for a New Jersey restaurant called Jersey Joint, whose hexagonally shaped logo looked like the New Jersey Turnpike logo.
There’s also a Michigan case pending before the TTAB surrounding the commercial use of a highway. Scenic highway M-22 was the inspiration for a business called M22 that produces clothing and merchandise featuring the highway’s sign, which the company trademarked in 2007. When M22 started selling merchandise that features the sign of yet another Michigan roadway, M119, the state attorney general ruled that road marker designs are in the public domain and not subject to trademark protection. That action was followed by the state of Michigan’s action to cancel the M22 trademark, which is still before the TTAB.
But back to New Jersey, it’s been the butt of jokes for decades, including this one:
Q: Where did the jokes about New Jersey being a horrible place come from?
A: People who have been there.
There’s even a website called “What Exit?” which calls itself “New Jersey’s Most Trusted Website for Almost a 50th of a Quarter Century.” Thrillist’s “20 Things You Don’t Understand About New Jersey” explains that “living off a highway exit is totally normal,” and points out that New Jersey residents often describe where they live not “in the form of a county, city, or street name, but instead, just ‘off Exit 105.’”
We leave you with this list of “You know you’re from New Jersey when . . . “
Update, April 26, 2017 on the M22 case: MLive reports that a federal judge has rejected the state’s argument that M22 LLC’s trademark of the highway sign M-22 violates the law.