21 December 2017Copyright

General Mills settles altercation over fruit and nut bars

Consumer goods company General Mills has settled a trade dress and copyright infringement dispute over fruit and nut bars.

US District Judge John Tunheim signed a final consent judgment on Monday, December 18, after General Mills settled its dispute with Rawbite.

Rawbite, headquartered in Denmark, sells organic fruit and nut bars under the name “Raw•Bite”.

In August, General Mills sued Rawbite at the US District Court for the District of Minnesota, alleging trade dress infringement, copyright infringement, and unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.

General Mills has sold Lärabar bars, a line of fruit and nut bars, since 2003. The bars are made from a gluten-free blend of unsweetened fruits, nuts, and spices and contain no more than nine ingredients.

The trade dress of the bars includes a prominent rectangular banner on the centre of the packaging, with a solid coloured background, the brand name in block letters and a product slogan.

According to the claim, Rawbite’s bars are packaged in wrappers that have the “same look and feel” as the Lärabar trade dress.

“General Mills has invested significant time, funds, and effort toward developing, marketing, and commercialising its Lärabar products featuring the Lärabar trade dress and toward establishing the Lärabar trade dress as a source identifier,” said the claim.

The consumer goods company added that since 2015, it has spent more than $30 million on advertising the products, and has generated over an estimated 700 million media impressions in the process.

As part of the settlement, Rawbite will permanently stop using the infringing packaging and any other trade dress that contains the restricted design elements, based on a “phase-out schedule”.

Rawbite has also agreed not to use certain packaging designs for its bars, including a base colour that covers more than 50% of the packaging background and a brand name that is displayed in red, or red as the background colour for any banner displaying the brand name.

The consent ordered featured a different design for the Rawbite bars, which General Mills had agreed was acceptable.

The parties also consented to waive their rights of appeal.

For the INTA Daily News 2017, WIPR interviewed Josh Burke, senior IP counsel at General Mills, about trademarks, trade dress and brand value at the company. You can read that interview here.

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