In a decision that might be the final ruling in a long saga over the rights to use the term PRETZEL CRISPS, the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina found the term PRETZEL CRISPS generic for pretzel crackers. Princeton Vanguard registered the mark PRETZEL CRISPS on the Supplemental Register, which is reserved for descriptive marks, and later sought registration on the Principal Register and has taken the position in this decade-old battle that the mark has become source identifying and recognizable by consumers as a trademark.
A Source Identifying Trademark
Frito-Lay North America challenged the mark through the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“Board”), and the matter was later appealed through the U.S. court system with rulings from both the Federal Circuit and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeals.
In this latest ruling, the Court upheld a prior decision by the Board ordering cancellation of the PRETZEL CRISPS mark as generic for the goods. While recognizing the success of the brand due to marketing and enforcement efforts, the Court also found that such efforts could not allow a party to monopolize a common name. Frito-Lay argued that combining generic terms “pretzel” and “crisps” did not create any additional meaning beyond the common definitions.
Brand Selection and Choosing Trademarks
In agreeing with Frito-Lay, the Court observed that the combined term “yields no additional meaning to consumers capable of distinguishing the goods and, independently, usage by competitors, media references and consumer surveys (as well as some use by Plaintiffs) reflects that, on balance, consumers primarily perceive ‘pretzel crisps’ to be a common/generic name.” Snyder’s Lance, Inc., and Princeton Vanguard, LLC v. Frito-Lay North America, Inc., 3:17-CV-00652-KDB-DSC (W.D.N.C. June 7, 2021).
This case is an important lesson in brand selection and choosing trademarks that will be deemed strong, unique, and source identifying. If you have any questions about this post or any related intellectual property issue, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.