Papa John's is cooking up a new apostrophe-less logo

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Papa John's may soon go by the name Papa Johns, a minor grammatical tweak that says a lot about the state of the brand.

In what appear to be previously unreported filings regarding new wording and brand imagery, the company would keep the Papa John's brand name but lose the apostrophe in the second word. The filings were submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in late August.

Papa John's International Inc., is eager to repair the image of the Papa John's brand following the controversy stemming from founder John Schnatter's racially charged comments. (A timeline of the controversy and its fallout is here.) While the company has distanced itself from Schnatter—who stepped down as chairman of the board in July, and whose image was swiftly removed from everything from ads to pizza boxes—the possessive brand name continues to suggest that the chain is owned by John himself. And, indeed, he remains its largest shareholder. Now, it appears Papa John's will try to add a little more public distance by dropping that possessive usage from its logo.

For now, there are no imminent plans to use the new logo, a Papa John's spokesman said Tuesday. As the applications were filed at the end of August, it could be early 2019 before the new look appears, according to Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney at Gerben Law Firm, who looked at the filings. Once a trademark application is filed, he says, "the trademark office will examine it in four months' time."

The chain filed both color and black-and-white logos with a modern look featuring capital letters displayed in angled rectangles. In the designs provided in the filings, the letters are capitalized and beneath the "S" at the end of Johns is a rectangle; it also appears to be slightly smaller than the other letters.

In the color version, the words "Papa" and "Johns" each appear in white lettering in their own rectangles. Papa appears on a red background and Johns on a green one. Red and green are colors the chain has long used in its marketing.

Papa John's released a new campaign on Tuesday, its biggest ad push to date since the negative publicity began boiling up in earnest in July. In some instances, the new campaign and the images filed include the "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza."

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