Kraft wins battle over Cracker Barrel label -- at least for now
Shoppers look over Cracker Barrel merchandise at a promotional 'pop up' Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in Nashville, Tennessee. (Frederick Breedon, Getty Images / November 10, 2009)
The issue before the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was whether Cracker Barrel Old Country Store should be prohibited from marketing a line of meat under its name because it could be confused with Kraft's line of Cracker Barrel cheese.
In an opinion written by Judge Richard Posner, a three-judge panel ruled today that a ban should remain in place while the two companies fight the issue out in court. Kraft sued Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in January, claiming trademark infringement.
Kraft has been selling Cracker Barrel cheese for about 60 years, according to the lawsuit. The 620-strong restaurant chain Cracker Barrel Old Country Store was founded in 1969.
Late last year, the restaurant chain announced it was partnering with Smithfield to sell a line of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store foods, such as hams, lunchmeat, bacon and jerky. Kraft sued, claiming many “consumers will be confused by the similarity of the logos and think that food products so labeled are Kraft products, with the result that if they are dissatisfied with a (Cracker Barrel Old Country Store) product, they will blame Kraft,” according to the lawsuit.
A preliminary injunction was issued by the lower court, stopping the chain's plans, but not before the company started stocking shelves with its new products. But the similarity in names confused even those who worked for the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, according to the ruling.
“In the brief period before the … injunction was issued, in which (Cracker Barrel Old Country Store) hams were sold in grocery stores, an online ad for Cracker Barrel Sliced Spiral Ham by a coupons firm provided a link to a coupon for Kraft’s Cracker Barrel cheese,” Posner wrote.
The injunction does not prevent the restaurant chain from selling the products at its restaurants or online while the lawsuit is pending.
The lawsuit is next up before U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman on Nov. 25, according to court records.