The owner of a kosher pizzeria in New York has successfully sued the owner of a rival kosher pizzeria by invoking an ancient Talmudic law.
Daniel Branover, whose upmarket Basil Pizza & Wine Bar has diners queuing for up to two hours, took exception to newcomer Calabria, opened by Shemi Harel across the street, and took the matter to the Beth Din (or Rabbinical Court) of the Borough Park neighbourhood in Brooklyn.
In a case that has intrigued intellectual property lawyers around the world, Branover sued on the grounds of ‘hasagat gevul,’ which translates as ‘trespassing’ or ‘unfair competition’ depending upon the circumstances.
Branover alleged that Harel set up shop in order to entice diners queuing for seats, and that Basil’s employees were approached for information, arguing that this went beyond legitimate competition.
Alleging a violation of ‘hasagat gevul,’ rabbinical judges were asked to interpret the meaning of the concept over two millennia, and – in a decision given in Hebrew – ultimately sided with Branover.
The Rabbinical Court said it considered the proximity of the two restaurants, Branover’s investment and reputation, and the “similarities in the appearance and concept” of the two restaurants. However, they also considered the ability of the two men to make a living as an important for any claim based on ‘hasagat gevul’.
Calabria was ordered to change its offerings to “regular pizzas”, and now sells “New York-style pizza” in rectangular slices – which, again, Branover has taken exception to, arguing that Calabria should instead offer wedge-shaped slices. Rabbinical judges may now be asked to rule on this too.