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The Snap, Crackle and Pop of IP protection

01-10-2015

The Snap, Crackle and Pop of IP protection

LOUELLA938 / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Kellogg’s has launched some highly popular products in its 109-year history, but it has also faced a range of IP challenges. WIPR hears from Jim Lewis, global IP counsel, about how the company tackles current and future threats.

It is almost 80 years since Kellogg’s and the National Biscuit Company faced off at the US Supreme Court. At the centre of the dispute was the claim that Kellogg’s had ripped off National Biscuit’s Shredded Wheat breakfast product.

John Harvey Kellogg, who invented Corn Flakes, had said eating National Biscuit’s Shredded Wheat product was like “eating a whisk broom” after it was first introduced in 1891. But that did not stop Kellogg’s creating a rival product once National Biscuit’s patent covering the method of producing the Shredded Wheat product expired in 1927. National Biscuit, named Nabisco in 1971, filed a trademark infringement and unfair competition lawsuit in 1932. The US District Court for the District of Delaware dismissed National Biscuit’s claims, and on appeal the case went to the Supreme Court.

Kellogg’s landed a significant victory after the justices ruled 7-2 that the Shredded Wheat name was generic and that its pillow shape is functional. Justice Louis Brandeis, writing the majority opinion, ruled that the Shredded Wheat name was not eligible for trademark protection.


Kelloggs, Corn Flakes, trademark, US Supreme Court, gTLDs

WIPR

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