Peeled, Inc. Seeks Injunction, Damages in Trademark Infringement Suit Against Peeled Fruit LLC

Originally posted on the Essential Nutrition Law Blog by Jonathan Stagg

Peeled, Inc. (“Peeled”) www.peeledsnacks.com, a company specializing in healthy, natural snack foods including dried fruits and dry roasted nuts, recently filed a trademark infringement suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Peeled Fruit LLC (“Peeled Fruit”) www.simplypeeled.com.  Peeled Fruit sells frozen soft-serve fruit, with fresh fruit toppings. Peeled alleges that Peeled Fruit is attempting to cash in on the brand awareness and goodwill associated with Peeled’s marks.  

Peeled began marketing its products under the marks “Peeled,” “Peeled Fruit,” and “Peeled Snacks” as early as 2004. Since that time, Peeled’s marks have received extensive coverage in television and print media, including receiving a coveted spot on Oprah’s O List as one of Oprah’s favorite afternoon snacks, and receiving the 2008 “Best of Food” award from Health Magazine. Peeled registered the mark “PEELED SNACKS” on January 10, 2006 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
 
Peeled alleges in its complaint that long after it began marketing its products with the Peeled marks, Peeled Fruit began infringing on the marks by using the words “Peeled” and “Simply Peeled” in its marketing materials. Peeled argues that Peeled Fruit sells similar products with similar ingredients, and that as a result the products are confusingly similar. Peeled claims that Peeled Fruit had full knowledge of Peeled’s prior use of the marks, and that in spite of Peeled’s requests, Peeled Fruit has refused to cease its use of the marks.
 
231Peeled alleges that Peeled Fruit not only knew about Peeled’s use of the marks, Peeled Fruit “adopted the trademarks with the intent to trade and capitalize on the goodwill generated by Peeled, Inc.’s extensive and widespread use of its trademarks, as well as its extensive sales, advertising and consumer acceptance and recognition.” Peeled argues that the similarities between the products sold by both companies make the shared use of the marks likely to cause confusion, mistake and deception among consumers.
 
As a result, Peeled is seeking an injunction against Peeled Fruit, which would restrict Peeled Fruit from further use of the marks. Peeled is also seeking a monetary damage award, under federal trademark law (15 U.S.C. § 1117), in an amount equal to either 1) three times the amount by which Peeled was damaged by the alleged infringement, or 2) three times the total profits Peeled Fruit obtained from the use of the allegedly infringing marks.  Finally, Peeled is seeking an order from the court, under 15 U.S.C. § 1118, requiring Peeled Fruit to destroy all materials that display the allegedly infringing marks.

Energy Drinks and Nutrition Bars too Related to Avoid Consumer Confusion

By Guest Blogger Michael Mangelson

This post also appears on the Essential Nutrition Law Blog

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) recently issued a decision that highlights the importance of not assuming that goods that fall in different international trademark classes are unrelated in a likelihood of confusion analysis. In In re Spirits of the USA, LLC (not citable 4/21/10), the TTAB held held that energy drinks (class 32) and nutrition bars (classes 5 and 30) are too related to avoid a likelihood of consumer confusion when used in connection with the mark "Runner". The TTAB concluded that energy drinks and nutrition bars both provide energy and are commercially related products that are sold in the same channels of trade to the same classes of consumers, so confusion is likely.

How can you know if the relationship between the products you plan to list in your trademark application and those in an existing third party registration are likely too close? Do what examining attorneys at the USPTO do: search for third party registrations that list both your products and the products listed in the registration in question. If a number of these third party registrations exist, the examining attorney is likely to cite them in a refusal claiming that this evidence suggests that the listed products are of a type which may emanate from a single source and therefore are likely to cause confusion in the marketplace. (See In re Albert Trostel & Sons Co., 29 USPQ2d 1783, 1785-86 (TTAB 1993)).

New York Times on Nutraceuticals

The New York Times has a piece on nutraceuticals that caught my eye as an example of the news media’s skepticism about fortified food. The article begins:

“O[ff] the coast of Peru swim billions of sardines and anchovies: oily, smelly little fish, rich in nutritious omega-3 fatty acids. Their spot on the food chain is low; many will be caught, ground up, and fed as fishmeal to bigger animals.

“But a few have a more exalted destiny: to be transported, purified and served at North American breakfast tables in the form of Tropicana Healthy Heart orange juice and Wonder Headstart bread. These new products promise to deliver the health benefits of fish oil without the smell and the taste — without, in fact, the fish.”

But the article’s author, Julia Moskin, without citation or attribution, poses these loaded questions:Are we really that close to a world in which food functions as a nutrient delivery system, made possible by microencapsulation and fine-spray coating? And what would this mean for food and human nutrition?”

In the end, Ms. Moskin’s piece appears full of cynicism and doubt about the industry. She writes off nutraceuticals as a cheap marketing ploy: 

“[W]ith recent rising costs in raw materials, flavorings and transport, many food companies are refocusing their research and development; instead of adding expensive ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes or honey-roasted almonds to existing products, the search is on for inexpensive ‘value-added’ products that customers will pay extra for.”

Ms. Moskin does quote claims made by the industry but notes that university scientists disagree with the claims—implying that these scientists must be right because they are not employed by industry.

To me, the article demonstrates the need for the industry to invest in more independent research and verification. As the nutraceuticals industry matures and grows, claims by industry will be met with growing suspicion and, inevitably, assertions of “consumer fraud.” Consumers may believe health claims by small health food companies that they “trust.” But once those same companies (and their industries) grower larger, people by their nature become more skeptical.