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Thursday Thorns
Why Is Coppola Picking On The Little Guys?
Subtitle: What’s In A Table?

By Charles Olken

Mr. Coppola owns a restaurant called “A Tavola” up in Geyserville. Someone else owns a restaurant called “Tavola” so far away that it is practically in another county. Mr. Coppola and his minions are doing the damnedest to prevent the little guys from using his name, and the media have chosen to side with the little guys.

Now, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I love the word “Tavola”, meaning table. I came into wine drinking “table wine”. Indeed, it was Guild Tavola Red, cost us fifty-nine cents, and we drank it in the park at age 16. Most of our peers were drinking beer at the time, but John P. (name not given to protect my mentor in this activity) and I were wine drinkers. John because he was of Italian descent and his family had wine on the table every night, and he was allowed to have a little.

I was a wine drinker because I was a beer wimp. The stuff was too bitter for my delicate palate. Of course, my palate is still delicate but somehow, by the time I graduated from college, I had also learned how to drink beer. That is a story for another time—except to say that a local beer hall called “Cronin’s” was the cause of my downfall.

The beauty of Guild Tavola Red was that it was soft on the palate and cheap. We did not have a lot of money in those days. No one got drunk because we could not afford more than one beer apiece or a bottle of Tavola Red split between John and myself. Not to digress all that much further, but with one of the new discoveries in wine being sweet reds, Johnny P. and I were light years ahead of the trend.

So it is that “Tavola” is no new word to me. There are all kinds of places in this world that use the word “Table” in their names. No need to enumerate them, but if everyone who used the word “table” sued everyone else who tried to use the name, we would have one litigious society indeed. (← Sarcasm)

I suppose I have some sympathy with Mr. Coppola. I like the guy. For a rich guy, he is pretty down to earth, and he once invited me to watch a movie with him in his backyard. I and fifty others had a good time. And there is no reason why he should not want to protect his trademarked name. We have done the same thing with the word, “Connoisseur”. Funny thing is that no one would listen. So we compete with the magazine, “Connoisseur”, as well as the Connoisseurs’ Guide to Sake, the Connoisseurs’ Guide to Beer, the Connoisseurs’ Guide to Yachts, and even The Connoisseurs’ Guide to Cannabis.

Somehow, no one has ever confused any of us with the others, and my suspicion is that no one is going to confuse Mr. Coppola’s restaurant with that of the little guys. And, that, dear readers, is why Mr. Coppola is getting a bit of a black eye in the press.

THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE requires me to tell you that the Coppola interests have a very different view of this matter. And while they say that they cannot comment because of pending litigation, they somehow have managed to comment at great length. I can’t blame them. They are getting it from all sides, and, worst of all, they are being attacked in the “blogs”. So, if you care to hear their side of the argument, I am attaching it here. Admittedly, I do not have permission to quote them, so if I get sued, please be ready to send money for my defense.

Herewith: The Coppola Statement

The Francis Ford Coppola Winery has created a unique dining experience which has been named "A Tavola". Customers travel far and wide to dine at the restaurant located at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, for A Tavola. At these occasions, there is no menu, only an opportunity to be part of an interactive and entertaining experience. We knew of no other A Tavola restaurant, so it was natural that we took steps to protect the name by obtaining a federal trademark registration in the United States Patent and Trademark Office. When we learned that a neighboring restaurant had subsequently applied for a “TAVOLA” trademark registration for a restaurant, we became concerned. Upon researching the matter, we learned that the restaurant was told by the US Patent and Trademark Office that it could not obtain a “TAVOLA” trademark registration because they found it to be too confusingly similar to our registration. We had assumed that with the negative response from the Trademark Office that our neighbor would understand our concerns and would already be considering a different name. Instead, in January, when we tried to discuss the matter and we explained that the restaurant’s use would create confusion, our neighbor simply told us we were wrong. Our neighbor rejected our amicable efforts, even when we made it clear that our only alternative was to seek justice through the legal system.

Understandably, the media has taken up the side of the perceived smaller party, without a statement from us. The media has ignored the fact that this restaurant knew that our A TAVOLA trademark was already registered when it filed its own TAVOLA trademark application in the Trademark Office, in an attempt to gain protection for the mark themselves. The media has ignored the Trademark Office’s position. Nevertheless, this is a legal matter to be resolved between the parties (as we have repeatedly requested) or to be judged in court, not in a newspaper or a blog, so our comments are inappropriate at this time.

What we do not understand is why Mr. Coppola is being targeted and criticized as part of the reporting of this business and legal matter. Mr. Coppola is not engaged in the management of his business or legal affairs. He is the creator of ideas and images and his lawyers and business people implement and defend these ideas. If you want to hold someone up for criticism in this matter, choose me, his CEO.


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Coppola vs Little Guy
by James
Posted on:4/12/2012 12:25:07 PM

I generally side with the little guy in these matters  but not so here. The Coppola people have a legitimate point here in that the similarities are just too close for comfort and could very well cause confusion on the part of the public.

Tavola vs Tavola
by Steve
Posted on:4/13/2012 3:51:43 AM

I'm having a difficult time sympathizing with Mr Coppola"s CEO on this issue. As I understand the situation, the restaurant at the Coppola winery is called Rustic, not "A Tavola". "A Tavola" is only a "unique dining experience" or special event put on at the restaurant. So the issue is not that people may be confused by two restaurants with the similar (Tavola and A Tavola) names. Mr Coppola's "A Tavola" is an event on a menu at a restaurant of another name while the little guy's "Tavola" is the name of his restaurant in Novato. I would be interested to know not only when Mr Coppola filed his trademark applicaion but also when did the Tavola restaurant begin operating under that name.

I am surprised that it was possible to trademark a common name like Tavola. I just did a search for Tavola Restaurant and came up with dozens of them all over the country including an "A Tavola Restaurant" in Chicago. IMHO, if the Novato Tavola Restaurant was operating under that name before A Tavola appeared on the Rustics Restaurant's menu, then Mr Coppola needs to back off and leave the little guy alone. Sheesh

Who was first?
by Chris
Posted on:4/13/2012 10:13:24 AM

What establishment was first to open using the name Tavola?

Should make it simple regardless of who trademarked it first.

Mr. C is right on with this one
by Jo Diaz
Posted on:4/13/2012 11:25:19 AM

Chris, Coppola was using it first. What I found most intriguing about that story is that this Novato restaurant had another name first, then changed it. Anyone in marketing will tell you, you don't change the name of a business unless it's really in trouble or there's some other mysterious motive. Go, Francis! I though you were being a bit uptight with the word "diamond," Mr. C., but on this one... Restaurant protocol is just that... I can get to either location in about a half hour, Charlie, depending on whether I'm going north or south. They're pretty close from my terrace...

I'm siding with Coppola on this one, because I'm beginning to see "Dark & Delicious" events begin to pop up for Petite Sirah... Even calling them Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah.

Hey, I started that seven years ago (early plannings and then executing each year).

It's like the story of the little red hen. I've done ALL the heavy lifting for that one, and all of a sudden others can now have a Dark & Delicious event for Petite Sirah? Talk about a way to confuse consumers. Are we really headed to Massachusetts, one asks... No. So, the inevitable. I've had to trademark it.

And, I've got my cease and desist letters ready to send for any PS D&D events in the future, if PS I Love You is not putting them on.

Mr. C is right on with this one
by Jo Diaz
Posted on:4/13/2012 11:26:10 AM



What's in a name
by tom merle
Posted on:4/13/2012 12:24:08 PM

I join Steve's logic.  The statement carefully neglects to note that the restaurant is called Rustic using a mode of eating communally.  And then they conveniently capitalize Tavola in their statement,when they use it properly in lower case at the Rustic.  There are plenty of restaurants that use the a tavola system.  It doesn't mean no menu.  It's something akin to Basque dining-en famiille, shared plates. The Tavola owers are right to tell the Coppola minions that they are wrong.  Why kowtow to the Godfather even though he will squish them in the end with their high priced lawyers

Jo; Dark & Delicious is a proper name, a cute one to refer to the grape and then to a specific event.  It has nothing to do with the making or drinking of Petite Sirah. No comparison.

Like the guy on the Peninsula who owned a restaurant called A Tavola some years ago, I say blackball Coppola's wine.

What's in a name addendum
by tom merle
Posted on:4/13/2012 12:55:30 PM

Also, I encourage folks to peruse the Yelp reviews.  Clearly it's a full service restaurant, like any other, where patrons can order a la carte off a menu.  Only one reviewer opted for the a tavola offering.  This type of ordering seems to play a small role in the way the restaurant provides its grub, being available on Tuesdays mostly.

There is no mention of "a tavola" on the restaurant website page.  Instead it notes that " 

At least get the facts right
by JR
Posted on:4/13/2012 2:43:31 PM

Charles, please check your facts before you write a story. It's difficult to continue reading a story when the very first sentance of that story is an incorect statement. Mr. Coppolla does not own a restaurant called "A Tavola" up in Geyserville. He owns a restaurant called "Rustic" up in Geyserville that offers an "A Tavola" dining experience on Tuesdays. The restaurant in Novato that Coppolla is suing is called Tavola Italian Kitchen.

No Subject
by Morton
Posted on:4/13/2012 9:36:44 PM

Does anyone go to a restaurant because it has a menu that offers prix fixe or a la carte. Of course not. They go to a restaurant because of the quality of food and service and what it costs.  Irrespective of who was first using the lame term a tavola in America where the common language is English, this is much ado about absolutely nothing. Francis should be embarrassed, this is below him. Or perhaps, he thinks coming up with Italian words for mundane things is clever.


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