California - A judge in Illinois Federal Court on July 1st granted Kraft Food Group, Inc.'s request to bar Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. from selling its products in grocery stores across the country. Though only a temporary injunction, it is a big win for Kraft as it sets the tone for the case.
The dispute stems from the trademark registrations for "Cracker Barrel", which both companies hold but for different goods and services. Kraft, based in Northfield, Illinois, claims that its first use of "Cracker Barrel" in 1948 for cheese supersedes use by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, which did not begin use of the trademark until 1969.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store was originally formed as a Southern-themed restaurant and gift shop, with its first restaurant in Lebanon, Tennessee. The company has expanded, opening restaurants nationwide and licensing its name to a Smithfield Foods, Inc. subsidiary to produce a line of meat products for sale in grocery stores. With that expansion, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has broadened the scope of use for its trademark "Cracker Barrel Old Country Store" from its original use in restaurant and gift store services.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store argues that the two trademarks are significantly different and would be used on very different products, so as not to cause confusion. While Kraft's trademark for "Cracker Barrel" is in plain lettering, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store features a stylized logo for "Cracker Barrel Old Country Store" featuring a figure known as "Uncle Herschel" leaning against a barrel.
While Kraft and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store have coexisted for decades, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store's expansion into grocery stores pushed Kraft to file a lawsuit in January for trademark infringement. Kraft's objection stems from a belief that a competing Cracker Barrel label in grocery aisles would damage its well-established "Cracker Barrel" trademark for cheese products.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Gettleman agreed with Kraft and barred Cracker Barrel Old Country Store from selling any grocery store products bearing the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store logo while the trademark infringement lawsuit is pending. Judge Gettleman also ordered Kraft to pay a $5 million bond, in case the court ultimately decides that Cracker Barrel Old Country Store should not have been kept out of stores.