It is hard to believe, but pizzas and pizzerias have often been the subject of legal disputes. The Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main had banned a pizzeria from calling itself “Falcone & Borsellino” in reference to the late Italian judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. The two were known as so-called “Mafia hunters” and were brutally murdered by assassination attempts. The pizzeria sued also used the names and pictures of the deceased in its advertising. The menu itself even featured bullet holes. The OLG Frankfurt prohibited the use of the name in its judgement of 07.07.2022 (Ref.: 6 U 211/20) with reference to the right to a name and post-mortem right of personality. Both were violated by the use in the context.
In another case (AZ: 4 U 243/97 of 28 May 1998), the Higher Regional Court of Hamm had to decide whether there was a likelihood of confusion between the trademarks “pizza-direkt” and “pizza-direct”. One trade mark was registered for “provision of information” and the other trade mark for “delivery of food”. This was not sufficient for the court to find a likelihood of confusion, as the marks have only a low distinctiveness due to the generic terms.
In the most recent case, the Regional Court of Cologne (Case No.: 14 O 283/20 of 09.06.2022) had to decide on the question whether the graphic image of a pizza slice enjoyed copyright protection. What was special about the graphic was that the pizza was bitten at the edge and not in the middle. Literally, the court wrote:
“The design was based on the idea that this person had already bitten into the pizza more quickly, since one usually takes a piece of pizza in one’s hand at the rounded end and bites off the tip at the bottom. Accordingly, the board is convinced that the disputed graphic of a stylised pizza slice manifests a creative concept that clearly goes beyond the mere naturalistic simplified depiction of a conventional pizza slice”.
The court considered this to be the development of a distinct visual language leading to copyright protection. What legal consequences a simple bite into a pizza can have …