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Hormel, Purina in beef over bacon trademark

Are consumers really likely to be confused when presented with a choice between Hormel Foods’ Black Label line of human-grade bacon and Nestle Purina Petcare Company’s brand of Black Label dog treats?

That is one of the claims in a trademark infringement lawsuit that the Austin, Minnesota-based Hormel filed in the U.S. District of Minnesota on Tuesday.

Hormel — self-described as “a bacon pioneer that has spent over 100 years perfecting the flavor of bacon” — accuses Purina of trading “on the invaluable goodwill” of Hormel’s Black Label trademark to promote a newly launched line of bacon-shaped “real meat” dog treats.

Not only did Purina adopt the Black Label mark for its “Beggin’ Strips,” Hormel alleges, it even exploited an image of Hormel’s Black Label-brand bacon in an advertisement that depicts an excited cartoon dog sniffing at the meat case in a grocery store.

“In addition to prominently featuring real bacon in their advertisements, Purina’s ‘Black Label’ product has the appearance of real bacon, which Purina prominently markets floating against a black backdrop in advertisements that are strikingly similar to a number of Hormel advertisements for its BLACK LABEL-brand products,” Hormel’s attorneys — James Steffen and Peter Routheir of Faegre Baker Daniels — say in the 16-page complaint.

Purina has yet to respond to the lawsuit.

Neither company is a stranger to bacon-related litigation.

Earlier this year, Purina confidentially settled a purported class-action lawsuit from a New York man who claimed Purina falsely insinuated that its Beggin’ Strip treats consist mostly of real bacon when in reality swine is just the 10th most common ingredient.

Hormel, meanwhile, is the defendant in a long-running fight in U.S. District Court in Minnesota with an Oklahoma company that says Hormel stole its “unique process and system for preparing pre-cooked sliced bacon.”

When will all this fighting over bacon end? When pigs fly.


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One comment

  1. Andrei Mincov | Trademark Factory®

    Trademarks will not give you a monopoly over your product itself. A trademark will not allow you to prevent your competitor from using bacon in their pet food. The real question here is whether the use of “Black Label” by Nestle Purina Petcare Company for dog treats infringes on Hormel Foods’ “Black Label.” More specifically, is Hormel’s “Black Label” distinctive enough to prevent anyone from calling their food products—even pet food—that. Based on the law suit, looks like Hormel’s strongest point is HOW Purina is using the name to create an association with Hormel’s bacon. If Hormel can prove that Purina indeed “exploited an image of Hormel’s Black Label-brand bacon in an advertisement that depicts an excited cartoon dog sniffing at the meat case in a grocery store,” THAT could be the real clincher in this case.

    Andrei Mincov
    Founder and CEO of Trademark Factory® / https://trademarkfactory.com, the only firm in the world that offers trademarking services with a predictable, guaranteed result, for a predictable, guaranteed budget. We can help you register your trademarks with a free comprehensive trademark search, for a single all-inclusive flat fee, with a 100% money-back guarantee.

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