Could this Restaurant Get Into (Legal) Trouble?

I went to dinner at a very nice restaurant (Italian- DONATO’s-Port Charlotte, FL), las week. The decor of the restaurant was very interesting-it was set up like NYC (Little Italy), with names from “THE GODFATHER”. For instance-an office door was labelled AATORNEY At LAW- Thomas hagen, and “Genco Olive Oil”…and 'Clemennza’s discount mattress". Could the owner of this place get in trouble with the Puzo estate?
By the way, the veal was “the best in the city”-and no-I didn’nt get my head blown off!:smiley:

Names aren’t covered by copyright. Unless any of those were trademarked then the answer is most likely no. IANAL etc.

No… But unless some “taxes” are paid someone might be sleeping with the fishes pretty soon.
I’ll be by on Tuesday to… Discuss things.

IANAL, but there could be a trademark issue. It may not be the Puzo estate that owns the trademark, however: it may be the company that made the Godfather movies. To check on whether a trademark issue is possibly involved, you could check on the US trademark database (which I checked for something else many years ago, but which I no longer know the web address of).

You can certainly still get into legal trouble using someone else’s likeness or name:

ETA: IANAL either

My thoughts-restaurant is visited by asome nulking goombah-who “suggests” that a small payment be made!

Only if that person exists. These are fictional characters, made-up names for non-existent people.

And not trademarked ones like Mickey Mouse, for example.

The restaurant is pretty clearly trying to make a profit by using elements of copyrighted materials (the book and film The Godfather) created by someone else. Even if each particular element hasn’t been trademarked, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that Puzo (or whoever owns the rights to the film) couldn’t successfully sue.

I think it just sounds and looks tacky.

Make a nice Italian restaurant… Then theme it off a movie like its Walt 'effin Disney world?

H.L. Mencken had some insight into this.


Going with what Sublight said above then. I would think characters an author creates in a copyrighted work would remain the author’s property.

Well, I’m not ordering any fish dishes there, if Luca Brasi is sleeping with them. :frowning:

I am wondering about the fictional aspect-movies usually have a frame that says words like" all characters in this movie are fictional, and any resemblence to persons living or dead, is purely coincidental"-as id nobody could guess that Puzo’s “Hyman Roth” character was anybody but ?

For dinner theater, you get to watch a Sterling Hayden lookalike get shot in the head.

Somebody should warn Godfather’s Pizza.

I was actually thinking about Godfather’s Pizza when I wrote my post.

The term ‘Godfather’ was part of the common everyday lexicon before the film (even as a form of address for a mobster, though that may not have been so everyday, depending on what neighborhood you grew up in), so that in itself wouldn’t be likely to be actionable. Naming your restaurant ‘Goodfellas’, however, would be a horse’s head of a different color.

The bigger issue with this restaurant is that they’re using so many elements directly taken from the movie/book that there’s no way a reasonable consumer (or a judge or jury) could think that the similarity was merely coincidence. In the case of Godfather’s pizza, they share the name but the other imagery is more generic mobster.

Even Godfather’s Pizza seem to skirt dangerously close to the edge, especially since it opened in 1973, the year after the film. I wouldn’t be surprised if in fact the lawyers from Paramount had a few words with them.

And while this is true, also remember that the term derives from the ancient Christian concept of having sponsors stand up with candidates for baptism who publicly thus undertake the duty of providing for the spiritual nourishment of the catechumen – in the case of infant or child candidates, supplemental to, or in the case of death or incapacitation of, the parents. The adult male sponsor became the candidate’s godfather, the adult female, the godmother. The underworld usage of the term was actually a form of Sicilian noblesse oblige – the local gang boss undertook to be responsible for the safety and well-being of those who depended on him and his Family, sometimes in exchange for protection money, always in exchange for loyalty, in a kinky sort of parallel to godparenthood in the Church sense.

Yeah, sure.

Actually, I believe that the issue is not copyright but trademark infringement. You cannot copyright a name or a concept – if I wanted to write a story in which an original character whom I name Forest Grump attends a school for young wizards which I call Sowmoles, nobody owns copyright to those names or concepts. You can, however, I believe, copyright a character – the combination of name, personality traits, catch phrases, and mise en scene that is a creative act on the part of the author. Profiting from a work of fiction set in Mirkwood and Rivendell and featuring elves named Legolas and Elrond (well, Peredhil in the latter case) puts me in violation of the Tolkien copyrights. But naming a car dealership “Shadowfax Motors” or a ski resort “Mount Lookitthat” does not violate copyright.

However, when someone invests money in a multimedia production (movie, TV show, video game, etc.), they trademark the imagery and gimmicks used in it as a matter of course, for use in marketing efforts associated with it. Disney, Paramount, etc., make a fair amount of money from marketing tie-ins of this sort, where McGreaseburgerKing puts out a Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Joyful Meal and licenses the images of Ali, the King of the Thieves, etc. This is what Godfather’s Restaurant would run afoul of – violating the trademarked imagery and nomenclature associated with the movies.

I believe Godfather’s Pizza has a legal arrangement, and pays a fee for the use of the name. They use it extensively, refer to the movie in their materials & on their website, in photos in their stores, etc. No lawyer would allow them to show this close a connection without first paying for permission.

Do you know if it was part of a chain? The reason I ask is that there was a pizza chain called Donato’s a few years back – it was acquired by McDonalds. If your restaurant is part of that chain, I think it’s pretty safe to say that McDonalds’ legal team would have cleared the decor.

When it comes to fair use issues, you’re often OK with this sort of thing so long as you don’t use it as a promotional tool. Basically, keep it indoors.

Naming your restaurant “Don Corligione’s” = asking for trouble. Likewise the “Charlie Brown & Snoopy Deli.” Putting images of those guys on your sign outside, or writing, “Come try our ‘Linus van Pelt’ club sandwich!” = asking for even more trouble. However, doing it inside, more on the DL, then you can probably get away with it a bit more.