It was hardly an epic battle, this tussle between two very different pizza
But it occupied Fred Poulos, the owner of Mombo's Pizza in Santa Rosa, for
It's a safe bet that it didn't occupy anybody at Round Table Pizza, maker
of the Wombo Combo, to anywhere near the same degree.
And when things drew to an unexpected, undramatic close Wednesday -- with
Round Table saying the combo was coming off the menu -- Poulos was pleased, if
a little confused.
Which may be fitting, as confusion was the main ingredient in this food
fight from the start.
You see, Poulos serves at least three different pizzas that use the name
Mombo, including the Mombo Combo.
And if you ask him, Poulos will tell you he coined the name Mombo's when
his infant daughter ran the words Mama and Babbo, which is Italian for dad,
together. But Round Table never asked, Poulos said.
At least not before the East Bay-based pizza franchise chain with the
slogan ``The Last Honest Pizza'' started advertising its Wombo Combo early
Poulos said customers at his Mendocino Avenue restaurant were confused.
Wombo is too similar to Mombo, he argued, and he had Mombo first.
Following his initial complaint, the company peppered him with questions.
At the request of Round Table attorney Robert Holtzapple, Poulos sent
proof, including old menus with the names Mombo and Mombo Combo and a 1 1/2
-year-old newspaper advertisement for the Mombo Combo.
He also sent a certificate signed by former Secretary of State Bill Jones,
attesting that on July 11, 2002, Poulos registered the name Mombo's Pizza.
About half way down the form, it says: ``Date First Used Anywhere: March
Holtzapple then asked Poulos for more proof.
Round Table needed ``additional details'' about who among Poulos' customers
were confused, and such details as ``how did that person express his/her
And, he said, Mombo's Pizza may be a registered trademark, but Round Table
wanted to know if ``Mombo Combo'' was registered too. Had Poulos lost any
sales since Round Table introduced the Wombo Combo? If so, could Poulos
furnish sales information for each week for the last year and explain why the
Wombo Combo caused the lost sales?
Poulos' lawyer told him the message was clear: Round Table was preparing to
The lawyer also told Poulos that he had a strong case.
``He's got an open-and-shut case of trademark infringement,'' said Marcus
Bastida, an intellectual property attorney in Los Angeles.
Holtzapple, who until Wednesday afternoon was the only Round Table
representative to answer questions about the dispute, said the letter ``wasn't
intended as a `sue me and we'll see if you get what you want.'
``The intent,'' he said, ``was `show me,' not `I won't talk to you any
As the letters went back and forth, Bastida recommended that Poulos speak
to Scott Lewis, a small business attorney in Santa Rosa, who told Poulos it
would cost between $10,000 and $35,000 to take on Round Table.
``I am not that substantial,'' Poulos said.
* Mombo's Pizza of Santa Rosa, opened in 2002 by Fred Poulos.
* Round Table Pizza, opened in 1959, with more than 500 stores,
according to the company's Web site.
The issue: Poulos sells a combination pizza called the Mombo Combo.
Early this year, Round Table began a promotion touting a combination
pizza called the Wombo Combo.