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Mister Softee, Inc.
Trade name
Mister Softee
Private
Industry Ice cream
Founded 1956; 65 years ago (1956)
Founders William Conway and James Conway
Headquarters ,
Key people
John Conway, James Conway, Jr.
Products Ice cream

Mister Softee, Inc., doing business as Mister Softee, is an American ice cream truck franchisor, best known in the northeastern United States. The company is based in Runnemede, New Jersey.

Business history

Mister Softee, Inc. was founded in 1956 in Philadelphia, PA by brothers William Aloysius Conway (1922–2004) and James Francis Conway (1927–2006). Headquartered in Runnemede, New Jersey since 1959, Mister Softee became one of the largest franchisors of soft ice cream in the United States, with about 350 franchisees operating 600 trucks in 15 states. Around 1999, William and James' sons, John P. Conway and Jim Conway, Jr., took over the business.

China

HK MisterSoftee MaOnShan
A Mister Softee ice cream truck in Ma On Shan, Hong Kong, 2008

English-teacher-turned-entrepreneur-now-stand-up-comedian Turner Sparks was roommates with Alex Conway – Jim Conway, Jr's. son while attending the University of Miami. Sparks spoke fluent Mandarin and had been teaching English in Suzhou. In 2007, with Alex's help, Sparks launched a Mister Softee China franchise in Suzhou with just one truck. Five years later, Sparks had ten trucks and 25 employees, with plans to expand throughout China's eastern region.

Mister Softee China had created a menu that combined classic American ice cream products of shakes, floats, and sundaes with new Chinese products such as green tea ice cream, red bean ice cream, kiwifruit sundaes, and milk tea floats. While its American counterpart operated almost exclusively with trucks, Mister Softee China had kiosks in downtown shopping areas and trucks throughout China's suburban neighborhoods and business districts.

Mister Softee suspended its China operations in 2016.

Jingle

Mister Softee Truck 1
Mister Softee mascot and official truck at an event in Tampa, Florida.

The melody broadcast from Mister Softee trucks – bearing the likeness of a music-box – is a contrafactum of Arthur Pryor's 1905 composition, "The Whistler and His Dog." Philadelphia ad man, Les Waas (né Lester Morton Waas; 1921–2016) scored it with new words for Mister Softee, and titled it, "Jingle and Chimes." Waas created close to 1,000 jingles.

"Jingle and Chimes" (lyrics)E major, "jaunty" 6
8
time
Intro

Here comes Mister Softee
The soft ice cream man.

1st verse

The creamiest dreamiest soft ice cream,
You get from Mister Softee
For a refreshing delight supreme
Look for Mister Softee

2nd verse

My milkshakes and my sundaes and my cones are such a treat
Listen for my store on wheels ding-a-ling down the street

3rd verse

The creamiest, dreamiest soft ice cream
You get from Mister Softee
For a refreshing delight supreme
Look for Mister Softee

Coda

S–O–F–T double–E, Mister Softee.

Michael Bloomberg, while Mayor of New York, launched an ambitious initiative in 2002 to crack-down on city noise, which included jingles broadcast from ice cream trucks – and in particular, the jingle from Mister Softee trucks. In 2005, in the face of opposition from citizens and members of the City Council, he compromised. Rather than banning mobile jingles, he permitted the trucks to air them, but only while in transit.

Trademark infringement cases in New York

Mister Softee has defended its trademarks, notably in the following two cases:

  • Dimitrios Tsirkos, who until 2014 had for decades been a Mister Softee franchisee in New York, launched a com­pet­ing ice cream vending company, which was incorporated January 24, 2014, in New York under the name Master Softee Inc., and, among other things, used Mister Softee's jingle. Mister Softee, in 2014, sued Tsirkos in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and prevailed on three allegations: (i) breach of franchise agreements, (ii) trademark infringement, and (iii) other unfair business practices. In 2016, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain held Tsirkos in contempt for failing to begin payments on a $97,000 judgment handed down in the 2014 case.
  • The next year, Mister Softee won, by default, a Federal lawsuit against Dimitrios Konstantakakos and 3 DDD Ice Inc. – owner of New York Ice Cream Truck Inc. of Long Island City – preventing him from using Mister Softee's jingle.

     Int­er­na­tion­al Trade­mark Class: 042
     Prior U.S. Clas­si­fi­ca­tions: 100 and 101
     Reg­is­tra­tion No. 2218017      
     U.S. Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice
     Reg­is­tered Jan­u­ary 19, 1999      
Service Mark
Prin­ci­pal Reg­is­ter
Sensory Mark—No Drawing
     Mark Draw­ing Code: 6 – for sit­u­a­tions for which no draw­ing is pos­si­ble, such as sound
     Mis­ter Softee, Inc. (New Jer­sey cor­po­ra­tion)
     901 Clem­ents Bridge Road
     Runnemede, NJ 08078
     The mark con­sists of a mu­si­cal jin­gle com­posed of six­teen notes in the key of E flat, in the se­quence of B – C – B – G – F – E – F – E – C – E – D – E – F – B – G – E, which is then re­peat­ed. (Mark audio on file)
     G&S: Re­tail mo­bile vend­ing ser­vic­es through the use of trucks fea­tur­ing soft ice cream.
     Trade­mark ap­pli­ca­tion Se­ri­al No.: 74619989; filed Jan­u­ary 11, 1995
     First use: March 1960; First use in com­merce: March 1960
     2nd Renewal: March 20, 2018
     Affidavit text: Sect. 15. Sect. 8 Dec­la­ra­tion (6–years). Sec­tion 8 Dec­la­ra­tion (10–years) March 20, 2018
     Ja­son Fitz­ger­ald Turn­er, Trade­mark Ex­am­in­ing At­tor­ney, USPTO


With respect to defending the trademarks, Mister Softee vice president Jim Conway has stated, "For 58 years we've spent our time, energy, and money developing brands. We're one of the most recognized brands. The people who are infringing on our trademark are not only hurting Mr. Softee, but also hurting our mom and pop franchisees. We take these actions to protect them as much to protect our own brand."

Doug Quattlebaum

In June 1961, Doug Quattlebaum, an American Piedmont blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, was 're-discovered' playing popular and blues songs through the public address system of his Mister Softee ice cream van. The blues historian, Pete Welding, who became known for discovering talent in unusual places, heard his performances and arranged for him to record an album. Released by Bluesville Records, Softee Man Blues (1963) had a photograph of Quattlebaum in his ice cream uniform on its front cover.

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