Grubhub drivers say change in app eats into tips and potential earnings

Dreamstime/TNS

WATERTOWN — Pete’s Trattoria, a popular Breen Avenue restaurant, has filed a federal lawsuit against national food delivery service Grubhub for alleged copyright infringement.

Pete’s filed suit against Grubhub in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, on March 30. In addition to “willful” trademark infringement, Pete’s alleges that Grubhub engaged in unfair competition; injury to business reputation; false and deceptive business practices; and violated the Lanham Act, which is the federal trademark statute that prohibits a number of activities, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertising.

The suit alleges that in or around 2019, Grubhub saw declining revenue and market share. In turn, the company began adding popular restaurants to its platform without their knowledge or permission, according to the complaint. Using this system, Grubhub allegedly added 150,000 restaurants to its platform without knowledge or permission, one of which was Pete’s.

Pete’s alleges that its various marks, logos and name were used on Grubhub’s platform without their knowledge or permission, and is “no way affiliated with Grubhub.” But, according to the complaint, “Grubhub causes customers to falsely believe that Grubhub has a relationship with Pete’s” because Pete’s various marks, menus or outdated menus appear on Grubhub’s platform.

“By including Pete’s to its platform,” the complaint states, “consumers are mislead (sic) into believing a partnership or cooperation exists between the two parties.”

It’s further alleged that Grubhub doesn’t notify Pete’s when its delivery drivers order or pick up food from the restaurant. Grubhub “disguises” the orders by making them appear to be ordered by “normal” customers, according to the complaint.

Grubhub also allegedly doesn’t disclose its lack of relationship with Pete’s to the customer.

Grubhub’s alleged actions, according to the suit, have resulted in many poor dining experiences associated with Pete’s, including unprofessional and dangerous conduct by drivers; the delivery of cold food; incorrect orders; orders not being delivered in a timely fashion; requests for substitutions and changes to order after delivery; and customer calls and complaints.

The complaint claims that Pete’s has requested on “more than one occasion” that Grubhub cease its conducts, but demands were ignored. Grubhub is also aware of the damage it’s causing Pete’s and other restaurants it doesn’t partner with, according to the complaint.

The suit is seeking a permanent injunction — a final order of the court that Grubhub refrain from the activities alleged in the lawsuit — as well as pay Pete’s the amount of any profits Grubhub has garnered as a result of its “unlawful and willful” acts. The suit is also seeking that Pete’s be awarded “actual” damages suffered by reason of Grubhub’s actions, including Grubhub profits gathered from its “unlawful” affiliation with Pete’s at an increased sum equal to three times the amount.

Pete’s, which is owned by Geoffrey M. Puccia, is also seeking the award of attorney’s fees. The business is represented in its action by city attorney David P. Antonucci.

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(2) comments

adr

Good, I hope they win.

Even when restaurants voluntarily associate with grubhub, I won't use it. I'd rather have the local businesses actually keep the money here.

rdsouth

I've noticed this. When you internet order from a restaurant try to find the restaurant's own site. Don't just order from the first site that comes up.

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