Ice Cream Wars: Mr. Softee Dishes Out Injunction Against Knockoff Trucks

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    NEWSLETTERS

    What's in a name? Plenty, if you're accused of trying to steal business from Mister Softee by marketing your ice cream truck as Master Softee. Roseanne Colletti reports. (Published Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014)

    A South Jersey-based ice cream giant is looking for anything but soft serve justice as it battles to protect its trademark from a fleet of faux ice cream trucks.

    Iconic ice cream truck company Mister Softee filed a lawsuit earlier this year claiming that a former franchise owner with a fleet of about 15 trucks in the New York area is violating trademark regulations by calling his trucks “Master Softee.”

    Master Softee trucks serve soft serve just like Mister Softee trucks do in 15 states but Mister Softee claims that its knockoff competitor isn’t paying franchising fees and is misleading consumers in the process.

    In the federal lawsuit, Runnemeade, N.J.-based Mister Softee (a company dating back nearly six decades) claims that Dimitrios Tsirkos is “infringing on Mister Softee’s trademark rights by operating his ice cream trucks using Mister Softee’s trademarks.”

    Last week, Mister Softee obtained a preliminary injunction against Master Softee because its trucks and logos are confusingly close to the Mister Softee look and feel. The injunction includes banning the familiar jingle and menu boards of Mister Softee trucks.

    That didn’t stop Master Softee trucks from hitting the streets. NBC New York cameras captured the trucks serving up soft serve despite the court order.

    Tsirkos didn’t replay to a request from NBC New York for comment. Mister Softee however did respond to NBC10’s request for comment.

    “For 58 years we’ve spent our time, energy, and money developing brands,” said Mister Softee’s vice president Jim Conway. “We’re one of the most recognized brands. The people who are infringing on our trademark are not only hurting Mr. Softee, but also hurting our mom & pop franchisees. We take these actions to protect them as much to protect our own brand. We’re confident the court will continue to rule in our favor. We expect additional fallout against those committing contempt of court."

    Tune in to NBC10 News at 5 for more local reaction to the ice cream showdown.