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Tacconelli's Pizza feud ends up in court

Three of the founders' four children are tussling over the family name.

Another family feud is tearing at a local food dynasty.

In a battle eerily similar to the one threatening the future of the Tony Luke's sandwich dynasty, members of the family behind the popular Tacconelli's Pizza empire are suing each over the rights to the name.

Tacconelli's has been a part of Philadelphia lore since the end of World War II, when Vincent and Barbara Tacconelli opened a brick-oven pizzeria in Port Richmond that became so popular, customers have to order their dough in advance.

The feud cranked up to full blast last week when son Vincent Tacconelli - who separately owns a Tacconelli's pizzeria in Maple Shade as well as a shop inside SugarHouse Casino - filed suit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. Through his company Tacconelli's Empire, the suit demands royalties owed by Mercer Cafe, a restaurant at the Navy Yard operated by Vincent's sister Dina Woltjen and her husband, Tom.

The cafe opened a year ago, selling — under a licensing agreement — "Tacconelli's Pizza."

The lawsuit demands unspecified royalities for January, February, and March 2016, and wants the Tacconelli's name removed.

Representatives of Mercer Cafe say they dispute the claims, intend to vigorously defend themselves against the claims, and expect to prevail at trial.

To this fray enter John Tacconelli — the eldest of the now-deceased founders' four children and, since 2009, the owner of the original shop on Somerset Street. In February 2016, he filed a petition with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, claiming that his brother had obtained the "Tacconelli's Pizzeria" service mark in 2003 by fraud.

John Tacconelli's appeal contends that Vincent Tacconelli had used his home address in New Jersey for correspondence with the USPTO, not the original business address, where his parents would receive mail.

Trademark records show that Vincent Tacconelli transferred the service mark's registration to his own business, Tacconelli's Empire LLC, in 2015 - 16 days after the death of his father.

In a text message, Vincent Tacconelli's son Vincent said: "We legally obtained the trademark over 10 years ago."