In a win for Kraft Foods, a federal judge has temporarily blocked the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. restaurant chain from selling packaged meat products bearing its name in retail stores.
Kraft sued to block the restaurant-cum-country store chain from using the name on a new licensed line of retail packaged goods products, saying that that would infringe Kraft's trademarked Cracker Barrel brand cheese, confuse consumers, and constitute unfair competition.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store signed a licensing agreement with John Morrell & Co. to produce branded ham, bacon and other meat products for distribution in supermarkets and other retailers.
The judge ruled that Kraft is likely to win its case, given that its cheese trademark originated in 1957, while the first Cracker Barrel restaurant opened in 1969 -- as well as research presented by Kraft showing that one in four consumers who were shown pictures of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store's ham during an online survey wrongly thought its manufacturer also makes cheese, reports The Tennessean online.
In a statement after the ruling, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store said it and John Morrell will explore all of their legal options, including a possible appeal of the preliminary injunction.
The Tennessean quotes an intellectual property attorney as saying that the ruling leaves Cracker Barrel Old Country Store with three options: Continue to defend the suit, drop the brand's retail extensions plan, or try to strike a deal with Kraft. The attorney deems the last option most likely, as most trademark cases are settled.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has more than 600 restaurants and more than $130 million in annual sales.