Film director Francis Ford Coppola’s restaurants in San Francisco and Napa Valley operate “a tavola” — meaning that there is no set menu and dishes are served to the table family-style; the Coppola family trust, which owns the “a tavola” trademark, has now sued a California restaurant called Tavola Italian Restaurant, claiming the name infringes on the trademark.
“Tavola” means table in Italian while “a tavola!” is commonly used to announce that dinner’s ready, i.e., that everyone should come to the table. “A tavola” can also simply mean “at the table.”
According to a search of the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), the Coppola trust holds a trademark for “a tavola” in the restaurant industry as of July 2011, having used the mark since 2008, and it also recently applied to trademark “a tavola” in the wine industry as well.
Coppola’s argument against Tavola Italian Restaurant’s use of the word “tavola” is that there is a likelihood of confusion that his winery is associated with the 70-seat establishment in Novato, California (about 50 miles from the winery).
Coppola doesn’t use “a tavola” in the name of his restaurants, but rather to refer to the style of service. Based on this, the owners of the Tavola Italian Restaurant, the Pirraglia family under the name TORG Holdings, Inc., could potentially counterargue that the trademark for a generic term commonly used in the restaurant business and general way of serving food should not have been granted in the first place.
But co-owner John Pirraglia told the Novato Patch that the family has “put considerable effort into explaining this to the Coppola family in order to achieve a resolution of the dispute without resort to litigation.”
What do you think? Should Coppola be able to protect “a tavola?”