niche drama

This Meatball Merch Drama Is *Chef’s Kiss*

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Earlier this week, TMZ reported that the Meatball Shop is suing Jersey Shore stars Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Deena Cortese, claiming that their new meatball-themed merch infringes upon the New York restaurant chain’s trademarks — a very “Spicy Lawsuit!!!” as the headline read.

In case you weren’t lost in the Jersey Shore sauce in the mid-2000s, as I definitely was, Snooki and Deena were lovingly referred to as “The Meatballs” on the show, due to their, er, curvy and compact stature — a silhouette that Cathy Horyn once likened to “a turnip turned on its tip,” in her 2010 Times profile of Polizzi. (Yes, I recommend giving that a read.)

Earlier this year, Snooki and Deena did what any entrepreneurial meatball would do, which is monetize their nickname with a merch line, called Meatball Merch — slogans include “Team Meatball” and “Meatball Squad” — so that they themselves could own the now decade-old joke. Well, not so fast. According to TMZ, the Meatball Shop thinks Meatball Merch is “ruining their brand’s good name.” The restaurant reportedly issued a cease-and-desist letter, which was “ignored,” and then filed a lawsuit shortly after, claiming trademark infringement. The Meatball Shop is seeking a court-ordered injunction to ban further Meatball Merch sales, plus monetary damages. As of today, though, Meatball Merch still lives on.

I don’t want to take sides here because, as any Italian-American knows, nobody wins when it comes to meatball drama. On the one hand, I feel for the Meatball Shop. They’ve no doubt had a tough year, and I find their “balls” merch pretty funny. That said, I am of the mind that all meatball press is good meatball press, and that wearing the word “meatball” (or “ball,” if you must) on a T-shirt is an inalienable human right. If I had to give personal legal advice, which no one asked for, it would be: fuggedaboutit!

The Meatball Shop and Meatball Merch did not immediately respond to request for comment. In the meantime, I’m going to call my mom and get her trademarked meatball recipe.

This Meatball Merch Drama Is *Chef’s Kiss*