(PRWEB) March 21, 2013
Kraft has had a trademark registration for the “Cracker Barrel” mark for cheese since 1957. Its first “Cracker Barrel” trademark application was filed in 1950. So it is no surprise that Kraft’s trademark attorneys would raise a suspicious eyebrow when Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, a well-known restaurant chain, announced a licensing agreement for the sale of its “Cracker Barrel” branded food items in grocery chains nationwide.
Kraft brand cheeses have been ubiquitous in grocery stores for many years. One of Kraft’s lines of cheese, called “Cracker Barrel” has been sold since 1948, according to the USPTO’s trademark database. Kraft has had a trademark registration for the “Cracker Barrel” mark for cheese since 1957. Its first “Cracker Barrel” trademark application was filed in 1950. So it is no surprise that Kraft’s trademark attorneys would raise a suspicious eyebrow when Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, a well-known restaurant chain, announced a licensing agreement for the sale of its “Cracker Barrel” branded food items in grocery chains nationwide.
Kraft quickly reacted by having its trademark attorneys file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleging trademark infringement. Cracker Barrel restaurant contends that it has been selling food products in well-marked packages to customers for decades, with no objection from Kraft. Of course, Cracker Barrel restaurants had not yet entered the grocery retail world, where Kraft products are primarily sold. However, things really started heating up early this month when Cracker Barrel restaurants shipped its ‘first wave’ of grocery store products to 325 national grocery retailers.
The first product shipped to grocery stores was a spiral-cut ham, emblazoned with the Cracker Barrel logo. Kraft’s trademark attorneys, who had previously thought that the launch of infringing products was not scheduled to begin until later in the year, scrambled to amend the original complaint less than a week after the unofficial launch.
Kraft’s amended complaint seeks permanent and immediate injunctive relief against Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, and claims that its Cracker Barrel brand cheese “will die a thousand deaths” if the infringing products are not immediately pulled from shelves and further shipping ceased. That’s pretty dramatic language, but the suit doesn’t stop there. It claims that if the injunction is not granted, Kraft’s Cracker Barrel cheese brand “may not be able to be resuscitated, regardless of any monetary award.”
To date, Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores is not actually selling cheese to grocery stores under the Cracker Barrel brand, and perhaps they have no plans to at any future date. Currently, the only active trademark filings (registration or application) for “Cracker Barrel” cheese belong to Kraft. Perry Clegg, a trademark attorney at Clegg Law and founder of Trademark Access said that while Kraft should not have waited so long to assert its trademark registration, it was nonetheless probably wise in bringing the lawsuit if it intended to preserve its trademark registration rights for the Cracker Barrel mark. It is not unreasonable to think that a grocery store customer may buy cheese and ham in the same outing, and be confused when both products in their cart carry the “Cracker Barrel” brand name. Clegg said that it is generally advisable for a business not to delay enforcement of its trademark rights, but if it has then it should consult with a good trademark attorney regarding a strategy for preserving and enforcing its trademark rights rather than simply giving up on them.
The case is Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. et al, No. 1:13-cv-00780, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.