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Winery, Turnpike at Odds Over Logo

Friday, October 21, 2016

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“We are from New Jersey and proud of it!” reads the website for Old York Cellars’ What Exit Wines line. But the winery, in Ringoes, NJ, isn’t getting the same level of love back from its state: The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is demanding it change the line’s logo a second time to distinguish it from a famous roadway’s logo, and the two parties look to be hashing out the dispute in court.

Wine Benefits Charity

What Exit Wines is a home-state booster brand, which, the winery explains, also helps to fund local charities. The wine, with labels resembling green highway exit signs, is marketed in conjunction with a different charity each month, and can also be personalized for organization fundraisers.

According to Old York Cellars, sales of the wine have helped aid Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and numerous other charities over the three years since its launch.

Logo Redesigned

But the NJTA caught wind of the label theme and didn’t take too kindly: The first What Exit logo, according to reports, was challenged by the authority for being too close to that of the Garden State Parkway, and the winery changed it. But the new logo apparently isn’t enough of a departure for the government.

The NJTA again has demanded that Old York change their What Exit logo due to its similarity to the Garden State Parkway emblem—though the new logo doesn’t have all that much in common with the highway insignia. Both are yellow and green (though not the same shades), and both feature an outline of the state of New Jersey within a circle.

The two logos have no words in common, and the state outline and text treatment are placed in different parts of the circle.

Winery Files Suit

Having failed to reach a compromise, the winery has filed a suit with the Hunterdon County Superior Court, challenging the idea that the NJTA’s trademark of its logo gives it the power to challenge commercial use of a similar graphic. The role of the Garden State Parkway logo is to identify a road and guide traffic, the winery argues in the suit; there’s no potential for confusion with a logo on a bottle of wine.

Garden State Parkway sign
By Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The role of the Garden State Parkway logo is to identify a road and guide traffic, the winery argues in the suit.

The legal wranglings, though, come alongside recent efforts by the NJTA to market merchandise with Garden State Parkway exit signs on it. The NJTA’s website has a gift shop where customers can purchase t-shirts, totes, mugs and magnets with their favorite exit sign emblazoned on them.

Past Suit

In 2014, the NJTA took a Florida pizzeria to court over its appropriation of the Garden State Parkway logo for its signage. A judge dismissed that case in May 2015, saying that the pizza shop would have “minimal contact” with New Jersey residents, who are the primary base of people who could be confused by the similarity.

A turnpike spokesman told NJ.com that the authority regrets that the Old York Cellars dispute has led to a court case, but that the winery’s rebranding effort after its initial complaint “fell far short of what they promised.”

   

Tagged categories: Business matters; Government; Infrastructure; Marketing; North America; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways

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