Ledo Pizza sues former partners in trademark dispute

Annapolis chain says former partners illegally sell its food products

Friday, Dec. 8, 2006

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Christopher Anderson⁄The Gazette
Ledo Pizza System is suing the Marcos family, which owns and operates the original Ledo Restaurant in Adelphi.

What was once an amicable relationship has quickly turned into a federal food fight between Ledo Pizza System Inc. of Annapolis and the Marcos family of Prince George’s County.

The company has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt against Thomas E. Marcos Sr., Thomas E. Marcos Jr. and James L. Marcos, claiming the family illegally used the Ledo name and trademark to sell food, resulting in a financial loss.

The Marcos family and Ledo chairman Robert M. Beall appeared the best of friends just one month ago, both celebrating national exposure when ‘‘The Oprah Winfrey Show” acknowledged its pizza as one of the best in the nation.

‘‘They focused on the fact that we make our own dough, we make our own sauce ... by hand when the order’s put in,” Thomas Marcos Jr. told The Gazette in November.

‘‘Everything is just piled on there,” Beall said at the time. ‘‘A large cheese pizza comes with a pound of smoked provolone. We’re not shy about giving you what you ask for.”

But now Ledo Pizza System claims the Marcos family, which helped establish the Ledo brand a half-century ago, breached a 12-year-old agreement by selling products under the Ledo name and logo at Expressions Catering service in Calvert County and at TJ Elliott’s in Bowie, both owned and operated by the Marcos family.

Under the agreement, the Marcos family sold its Ledo Pizza shares and no longer holds any interest in the company, according to the lawsuit, filed Nov. 27.

However, the agreement still allows the Marcos family to sell Ledo’s Pizza at the family’s Adelphi establishment, but only if the term ‘‘restaurant” is included in the logo. The Adelphi restaurant was the first Ledo location, opening in 1955.

Ledo Pizza also claims the Marcos family is misrepresenting the pizza sold at the Adelphi eatery.

In a statement, Ledo Pizza says the family is trying to ‘‘create the mistaken public perception that the pizza sold under the Ledo name at the Adelphi restaurant is different than the pizza sold at other Ledo Pizza franchised and licensed locations.”

An attorney for the Marcos family said the Ledo claims have no merit.

‘‘This case appears to have been brought as a result of an unfortunate misunderstanding of the facts on the part of the plaintiff,” said Cary J. Hansel, an attorney representing the Marcos family. ‘‘The court has denied the plaintiff’s initial request for relief and the defense is confident in the strength of its position.”

Ledo Pizza began franchising in 1989 and has dozens of franchise locations from Pennsylvania to Florida, including more than 50 within 50 miles of Washington, D.C., according to its Web site. Franchise revenues totaled more than $50 million in 2004.

The two sides are scheduled to meet Feb. 1 to discuss a possible settlement. Ledo seeks unspecified damages from the Marcos family, plus court costs and attorney fees. No trial date has been set.