Papa John’s International, Inc is an American pizza restaurant and takeout chain – the third largest pizza delivery company in the world. Doing business as “Papa Johns”, the pizza chain has headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and Georgia. But they very much have a global presence, with over 5,500 locations in 49 countries and territories.
Papa John’s started out in 1984 when John Schnatter (aka “Papa”) crafted a mini pizza kitchen in the broom closet of his father’s bar, Mick’s Lounge in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Schnatter had to sell his 1971 Camaro Z28 to buy the equipment needed to sell pizzas to his father’s patrons. The popularity of his pizzas meant that he was able to move next door to an adjoining space just a year later. That same year, Schnatter invented a dipping sauce to be used with the pizza crust which became a huge hit.
By 1986, Schnatter and his father sold the bar to spend all of their time on Papa John’s as it had become successful enough to stand on its own. They incorporated the business in the same year. Their aim was to make the best fresh pizza at a great price that was delivered quickly. Using just six ingredients, Schnatter always made sure the dough was made fresh, never frozen, and pre-measured the dough at commissaries to reduce waste. While other restaurant groups typically spend over $1 million to start a new franchise, Papa John’s managed to spend under $10,000.
As the pizza sector became the fastest-growing restaurant industry in the early 90s, Papa John’s grew incredibly quickly. They doubled in size every year from 1986 and went public in 1993. There’s a famous story of how Schnatter bought back the Camaro ZS8 that he sold to start the business for $250,000. In 2002, Papa John’s became the first national pizza chain to make online ordering available to all of its U.S. customers.
Schnatter stepped down as CEO in 2017 but stayed on as Chairman. This quickly changed in 2018 when Schnatter left the company completely due to controversy that made headlines about Schnatter making racial slurs during a conference call with Papa John’s marketing agency, Laundry Service. Since then Papa John’s has worked hard to disassociate the brand from John Schnatter. The brand experienced a slump soon after the scandal but has been gaining momentum once again since 2020.
Famous Papa John’s Trademarks
Papa John’s is the third biggest pizza chain in the world, growing at a phenomenal rate since their establishment in 1984. However, they face fierce competition in such a competitive industry. Trademarking their assets and IP will protect them from any legal disputes. Papa John’s has registered 40 trademarks so far with USPTO, let’s take a look at some of their most famous trademarks, registered by Papa John’s International, Inc.
Schatter was pretty quick to register his business name as a trademark considering at the time he was operating out of a closet in his father’s bar. He filed for the wordmark “Papa John’s” in October 1983 (before starting his pizza business officially) and had it registered in 1986. The trademark is not very extensive and only covers:
- Restaurant and carry out services
Papa John’s logo
The Papa John’s logo is iconic and instantly recognizable worldwide, largely because it hasn’t changed much since its creation in 1984. The logo features the words “PAPA JOHN’S” in red bold capital letters in an inverted arch. The words, “PIZZA” sits above this, also in red capitals, and with a slight arch. A thin green line surrounds the whole of the writing. This was the pizza chain’s logo from 1984 to 1995. However, this logo was never trademarked.
The newer version which was used from 1995 to 2019 was updated to be a little sleeker. With “Papa John’s” gaining a thin green shadow on each letter and “pizza” was upgraded to its own green banner above. “Pizza” is written in white and there’s a red outline on the ribbon. This logo was filed for a trademark in 1995 and registered in 1997. It applies to:
- Delivery of food by restaurants
- Restaurant services
- Sauces; dipping sauces; garlic-based sauces; spicy sauces; ranch sauces; blue cheese sauce; buffalo sauce; BBQ sauce; honey mustard sauce; cheese sauce
“Better Ingredients. Better Pizza”
The slogan used by Papa John’s has become synonymous with the brand. They’ve been using the slogan to promote their pizzas since 1996 and have used it in several marketing campaigns, as well as including it on several logo designs.
Papa John’s ran into a legal dispute with Pizza Hut over this trademark in 1988. Pizza Hut was using “best pizza under one roof” as their advertising slogan which they felt conflicted with Papa John’s promise. Pizza Hut sued them but was unsuccessful, with Papa John’s claiming that the statement isn’t a scientific fact, it’s an opinion – just like Pizza Hut’s slogan.
The wordmark for the slogan was registered as a trademark in 1998 and covers:
- Home delivery of cold and hot dishes
- Restaurant services
Read more: Trademarking a slogan
In 1997, Papa John’s ran an incentive where you could “Papa-Size” the pizza which meant getting it in a larger size. They filed for the slogan in 1997 and had it registered in 2000. It applies to:
- Restaurant services
Papa John’s has often had incentives and rewards for its customers. “Papa Dough” is a new rewards program where customers can earn free pizzas and various other rewards 5 times faster than before. This character mark was registered in 2022 and applies to:
- Promoting restaurant services and the sale of food and beverages through the administration of incentive award programs
- Restaurant services; restaurant services featuring in-restaurant dining and carryout and delivery services; take-out restaurant services
Following Schnatter leaving the business after the controversy around the racial remarks made during a conference call, the brand looked to disassociate itself from him. As part of this, they decided to slightly rebrand and remove the apostrophe from their brand name and logo. They have trademarked many variations of this wording, including a wordmark, logos, and character mark. The wordmark “Papa Johns” was filed for in 2018 and registered in 2021. It covers:
- Chicken; chicken nuggets; chicken wings; prepared foods for consumption off the premises, namely, chicken
- Pizza; pizza cheese sticks; rolls; pepperoni rolls; breadsticks; cookies; brownies; baked desserts, namely, cinnamon bread and cookie cakes; donut holes; sauces; spicy sauces; seasonings
- Pizza delivery services; delivery of food and drinks by restaurants
- Restaurant services; restaurant services featuring in-restaurant dining and carryout; take-out restaurant services
Toppings for Touchdowns
As part of a Super Bowl campaign in 2010, Papa John’s announced that it would offer a free topping on a Papa John’s large cheese pizza for every touchdown scored by the winning team in the Super Bowl XLIV – three touchdowns, three toppings, seven touchdowns, seven toppings! As the Official Pizza Sponsor of the NFL and Super Bowl XLIV, this made consumers winners as well as fans. They ran this campaign for the three days following The Big Game which was a huge hit. Papa John’s registered this slogan for a trademark in 2010 and it applies to:
- Prepared foods for consumption on or off the premises, namely, pizza
- Food delivery services
- Restaurant services; carry-out restaurant services; restaurants featuring home and business delivery
As one of the world’s and America’s biggest pizza chains, Papa John’s has a lot to gain from trademarking their assets. After already having a trademark dispute with Pizza Hut, where they attempted to sue Papa John’s for a slogan used, this proves why trademarking assets and IP is vital for saving money, time, and headaches in what could be complicated legal disputes.
Papa John’s has registered forty trademarks with USPTO, with many being as recently as 2022. The franchise has registered its names, logos, slogans, advertising campaigns, rewards schemes, and a lot more as part of this. They’ve also worked hard to trademark their new name and logo in recent years, which shows they understand the importance of trademarking. As a company that’s worth $2.92 billion, it’s important that they protect its brand and assets.
Find deep dives on other famous trademarks here.