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    Founder: Toppers Pizza Won't Back Down from Domino's

  • Domino's sent the 86-unit chain a cease-and-desist order over a recent ad.

    Topper's Pizza
    Topper's new ad campaign is called "Us vs. Them."

    Toppers Pizza founder and president Scott Gittrich isn’t backing down.

    “Excuse me for telling the truth!” Gittrich wrote in a June 21 blog post. The president of the 86-unit brand is fuming over a recent cease-and-desist order sent to Toppers from pizza giant Domino’s.

    Toppers is running an ad and launching a subsequent campaign called “Us vs. Them.” It features a picture of a truck, complete with Domino’s logo and branding, under the wording: “Them. Dough fresh off the semi.” Next to that a Toppers worker carries a bag under “Us. Dough made fresh in-house daily.”

    According to CNBC, a customer sent a photo of the ad to Domino’s and a few days later, Toppers received the cease-and-desist order. CNBC obtained the letter, written by legal department member Dawn Bushart, which said: "It has recently been brought to our attention that your company's marketing strategies include advertisement that defames our brand and incorporates our registered trademark. The use of the Domino's logo in this fashion is damaging to our brand, unlawful, and an infringement of our federally registered trademark.”

    Gittrich, who worked for Domino’s for eight years before joining Toppers in 1991, has zero intentions to stop the ad, set to launch across all media platforms next month. “Listen, we don’t have Wall Street money to rain down the advertising. We have quality. We have that our people care and believe in what we do. We have a killer menu with bold flavors and great ingredients,” Gittrich wrote.

    Gittrich said Domino’s threatened to “take further legal action.” He added that the company is confident what it’s saying and how it’s saying it “is not only completely legal and fair, it’s the truth.”

    “Domino’s is a Wall Street darling, dough-made-in-a-factory, tech company that happens to make pizza, pizza place,” Gittrich continued. “They should just be proud and own and embrace that. “Toppers is the made-from-scratch, made-with-love, locally owned and fighting the good fight pizza place; and we are going to own and embrace that.”

    Domino’s has more than 5,600 U.S. locations. Domestic same-store rocketed 8.3 percent, year-over-year, in the first quarter, giving it 28 consecutive periods of positive growth. Internationally, comps rose 5 percent, marking the 97th consecutive quarter of same-store sales gains.

    As Gitrrich alluded to, Domino’s is a tech-savvy pizza brand to say the least. It is currently north of 60 percent on its digital orders, and 10 percent walk-in. About 25 percent or so are call-in phone orders. The company has also said it wants to hit 100 percent digital in time, everything from AI phone ordering to kiosks.

    “Next time I want Alexa to order me a pizza with crust made in a factory, I’ll check out your newest tech,” Gitrrich quipped.

    CNBC spoke with Domenic Romano, founder and managing attorney of Romano Law in New York. He said: “It’s not defamation if it’s true,” in regards to the letter holding up.

    Domino’s dough arrives fresh from a warehouse and is not made in restaurants, CNBC reported, citing a former employee.

    However, Romano added: “both sides are wrong here.” The Federal Trade Commission allows comparative advertising given the company using its competitor’s logo does not falsely claim it is affiliated with the other brand, and uses the logo with the proper trademark attribution. Topper’s said the ad does, in fact, although it's hard to see, include a trademark attribution (TM or an R) that gives Domino’s credit for the logo. It’s on the Domino's truck by the handle of the door.

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