Would a pizza by any other name taste as generic? Earlier this year we mentioned the ongoing Joe's v. Joe's dispute and today comes word that all is not peaceful in the land of Ray's Pizza, either. Seems that a group called USA Famous Original Ray's Licensing Corp. trademarked the name in 1991 and wants a slice of the action coming out of the The Famous Ray's on Sixth Avenue and 11th Street.
This isn't exactly the first suit from USA Famous Original Ray's Licensing Corp.. Since is was formed in 1991 by owners of various Ray's restaurants it has made a habit of using the law to hold tight to its name. In this case they are claiming that the Greenwich Village Rays, owned by Max Brothers', has been using "deceptive and misleading conduct" and is eating away at the real Rays' "goodwill, customer base [and] market share." They are seeking more than $1 million in damages after they say they've repeatedly requested the restaurant change its name.
The Greenwich Village Ray's really is one of the first "Ray's" in town, though. Back in 1976 former owner Mario DiRienzo explained the name to The New Yorker like this:
"It's a small town I come from. Although I am a Mario, in Roio I am also a Ray. The name Ray is a nickname for the family name of Di Rienzo. Every family has a nickname in my town. Someone asks, 'Did you see Mario?' and there are so many Marios in town you have to ask 'Which Mario?', so the answer is Mario Ray. And so my restaurant became The Famous Ray's Pizza. If it were The Famous Mario's, you would have to ask 'Which Mario?'"
When we called the Village Ray's to speak to the owner about the suit we were told to call back later. And since we don't want to end up like that reporter on Castle, we didn't push too hard. In the meantime, as the Post also mentions, it is nearly impossible for us to think about the plethora of Ray's around town without thinking of Seinfeld's famous "which Ray's" riff. But FYI? There is not, and has never been, a Ray's—Original, Famous, Bari or otherwise—at the Nexus of the Universe.