Operators of the Foreside House of Pizza on Route 1 in Falmouth were recently ordered to stop using the FHOP logo by a Cumberland County Superior Court judge. File / Kate Irish Collins

FALMOUTH — A judge has ruled that the new Foreside House of Pizza can’t use “FHOP” in connection with its restaurant, located in the Falmouth Shopping Center on Route 1 – at least for now.

On Sept. 27 Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Thomas D. Warren issued a temporary restraining order stating that “FHOP” is a trademark belonging exclusively to Antonia and Steve Sotiropolous. He then gave the owners of Foreside House 30 days to remove the logo from all signs, menus, advertising and social media, according to the couple’s attorney, Adam Shub.

George Sotiropolous has used the FHOP nickname ever since he took over the space formerly occupied by the Falmouth House of Pizza in April and renamed it Foreside House.

While his parents, Antonia and Steve Sotiropolous, had operated Falmouth House for more than 40 years, they were evicted this past spring by the new owners of the Falmouth Shopping Center and have yet to find a new location to re-open.

Prior to opening his own restaurant, George, who is the couple’s eldest son, formerly registered the FHOP trademark with the state and then used the logo prominently in promotions, as well as on signs, T-shirts worn by staff and the menus.

That led his parents to file suit this past summer, claiming they had prior ownership of the FHOP trademark.

In his initial ruling, Warren said the evidence shows the elder Sotiropolouses had used FHOP on menus and a menu board when they ran Falmouth House and customers used it as a nickname for their longtime restaurant.

Even if the couple didn’t use FHOP extensively, Warren said previous rulings indicate that the public’s use of the nickname “is alone sufficient to create trademark rights.”

The judge also said the elder Sotiropolouses “have demonstrated that in the absence of injunctive relief, there will be irreparable harm because of consumer confusion and because of the likely impossibility of determining monetary damages with any degree of certainty.”

In an emailed statement, George Sotiropolous told the Portland Press Herald that he will remove FHOP from the sign above Foreside House and said he “formally offered to give” the trademark to his mother “months ago.”

“Unfortunately, rather than settle this peacefully and privately, my mom would prefer to litigate and continue to draw public attention to a very personal situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the elder Sotiropolouses hope to offer an express menu, with their traditional Falmouth House pizza, sandwiches and salads, within Ela Market & Grill, a planned new eatery in Falmouth operated by another son, Nick Sotiropolous. However, Ela has yet to open its doors.

They also plan to build a new restaurant and brewery on land at 356 U.S. Route 1, but the elder Sotiropolouses need a zone change from the town first. That’s unlikely, though, given the Town Council’s current wariness toward making any zoning adjustments until it updates the Comprehensive Plan.

In court documents, George Sotiropoulos argued that he should be able to keep using FHOP because it’s unlikely his parents will ever re-start their own restaurant. But Warren disagreed and said “even if they do not, the “FHOP” mark is an intangible asset that will lose its value if appropriated by (the) defendant.”

Warren’s injunction will stay in effect until a full trial, which has yet to be scheduled.

Forecaster Staff Writer Kate Irish Collins contributed to this story.

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