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.