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Tue, Aug 22, 2000
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Pizza Wars Continue: Papa John's
Now Sues Pizza Hut Over Slogan

Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The slogan war between Papa John's and Pizza Hut is heating up again. This time, Papa John's wants to keep Pizza Hut from obtaining a trademark for the catchphrase, "The Best Pizzas Under One Roof."

Papa John's has asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reject Pizza Hut's application, contending the slogan is "deceptively misdescriptive" under the federal Lanham Act, which deals with advertising practices.

Pizza Hut, owned by Tricon Global Restaurants Inc. of Louisville, filed the application in May 1998. The case was opened for public comment in December.

"We don't enjoy suing competitors. We don't have fun opposing somebody's trademark," said Papa John's spokesman Chris Sternberg. "We just felt like we had to do it."

The latest salvo comes after a federal judge-magistrate last month ordered Papa John's to stop using the slogan, "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza." A jury sided with Pizza Hut that the slogan and other Papa John's advertising was false and misleading under the same Lanham Act.

"We feel they need to be prepared to play by the same rules," Sternberg said. "It's a little ironic and unfair that they've objected to us saying `better' and they want the legal right to say `best."'

Papa John's was preparing to use a replacement slogan — "It's the Ingredients!" — but it won an emergency stay of the lower court's ruling. It can continue to use the "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" slogan found in print and broadcast advertising and on pizza boxes, napkins, cups, uniforms and restaurant signs while it appeals the case.

Tricon spokesman Jonathan Blum called Papa John's filing a bid for publicity.

"Their slogan, in the context of their advertising, was found false, misleading and deceptive because they made a comparison to Pizza Hut. So, the court said they don't have better pizza," Blum said.

The Pizza Hut slogan, by contrast, is merely a "superlative statement," Blum said.

"If you look at the context of our advertising, the way we use that statement is not comparative to anybody," he said.

Papa John's Sternberg said that argument defies logic.

"Nobody believes the term `best' is not comparative," he said.

It could be a long time before there's a final decision on the Pizza Hut slogan, said Sharon Marsh, trademark administrator with the Patent Office.

"It's the equivalent of a trial," Marsh said. "Depending on how the process unfolds and what motions the parties file, it can be a year or two, easily."

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