Pepperidge Farm, the creator of Milano Cookies, is suing national supermarket chain Trader Joe’s over allegations of trademark infringement. The lawsuit was filed over claims Trader Joe’s had manufactured knockoff Milano cookies.
Pepperidge Farm has argued Trader Joe’s Crispy Cookies look very similar to Milano Cookies. If this lawsuit were filed over regular chocolate chip cookies, it would appear silly, as very few people would be able to tell the difference between brands. However, Milano Cookies do have a distinct appearance and recipe that consumers associate with Pepperidge Farm. Crispy Cookies are more rectangular shaped, but with the same crispy outer layer and chocolate center. According to the lawsuit, Crispy Cookies also use similar packaging to Milano Cookies.
You won’t find Crispy Cookies in a Safeway or Ralph’s, as Trader Joe’s sells its own brands only inside its stores. However, if Crispy Cookies are confusing customers and hurting sales of Milano Cookies by looking similar while offering an identical experience, this lawsuit could end in favor of Pepperidge Farm.
Successful products require immense amounts of market research, advertising, time and money to create. For food products, developing the correct taste, packaging, brand and target audience are all aspects of becoming successful. Milano Cookies are among the most successful products sold by Pepperidge Farm, and it is unsurprising it would mount a lawsuit to defend its business.
Other food and beverage products have waged legal battles over similar issues. Jack Daniel’s, a major manufacturer of whiskey, was sued by Sazerac, another manufacturer over the use of the word “fireball” in a product. These lawsuits can serve as excellent teaching guides for how trademark and intellectual property litigation operate in the business world.
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