PIZZA COMPANIES CLASH OVER NAME BOSTON CHAIN PLANS TO OPEN BRANCH NEAR LOCAL RESTAURANT - The Buffalo News
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PIZZA COMPANIES CLASH OVER NAME BOSTON CHAIN PLANS TO OPEN BRANCH NEAR LOCAL RESTAURANT

"Uno" means "one" in Italian.

In the pizza business, name recognition means everything.

That's why two different companies are arguing in a U.S. District Court case over the use of the Uno name to sell pizza and other Italian food in Western New York.

It's shaping up as a battle of the big cheese against the little cheese -- or in this case, the large cheese pizza maker against the small one.

On one side stands West Seneca businessman Roger Paul, who for 18 years has sold pizza and other foods in a small chain of local restaurants called Uno's Pizza.

On the other side is the Pizzeria Uno Corp. of Boston, Mass., an international chain that plans to open next month its own Pizzeria Uno in Cheektowaga's Walden Galleria Mall -- about three miles from one of Paul's restaurants at 1481 Union Road.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Paul accuses the Boston corporation of violating his rights under U.S. trademark laws.

The confusion that could result from the opening of a Pizzeria Uno in the Galleria could knock him out of business, Paul claims in the lawsuit assigned to U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin.

Only Paul should be allowed to sell pizza under the Uno name in Western New York, said Paul's attorney, Daniel C. Oliverio.

"This is the classic example of the little businessman being strong-armed by a big, $100 million corporation," Oliverio said. "They have shown nothing but blatant disregard for his business.

"He (Paul) has been in business for 18 years, and now this big company is coming into his trading area and using his name."

The other Uno sees it differently.

"It is a big guy against a little guy, no question about it, but the size of the companies has nothing to do with it," said William Gallucci, senior vice president for Pizzeria Uno, in a telephone interview. "We have the name. We've had it federally trademarked. We're using the name internationally."

Gallucci said his company trademarked the name Pizzeria Uno in 1978. Paul's company, he noted, has never sought a trademark on the name.

Oliverio said Paul's company, Uno's Pizza Inc., was incorporated in New York State in 1971. He said the company at one time ran six restaurants in Erie and Niagara counties but now runs two -- at the West Seneca location and in East Aurora.

Part of the reason Paul chose the Uno name is that it denoted that the restaurants and their food were singular in nature and quality, Oliverio said.

"The trademark gives Pizzeria Uno the right to use the Uno's name everywhere except in the locations where the name is in prior use," Oliverio said. "We were here first."

"I guess we have a conflict," Gallucci said.

Both men agreed that name recognition is all-important in the pizza business. Gallucci said operators of the 55 Pizzeria Uno restaurants in the United States, Great Britain, Canada and Australia have worked hard to establish their reputation for quality food.

"We have national recognition," he said. "In any number of cities, people know of our food and our good quality product."

Oliverio said his client's restaurants have their own reputation for quality. Any person who might be unhappy with the food or service at the new restaurant would hold that against Paul's restaurants, the attorney said.

His lawsuit against Pizzeria Uno asks Curtin to order the Massachusetts company not to use the Uno business name and to pay attorney fees and punitive damages to Paul.

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