Arnold Products, Inc. (“Arnold”), a company known for its premium bread products (and which is part of the Bimbo Bakeries USA company), filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Sara Lee Corporation (“Sara Lee”) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. See BBU, Inc. et al v. Sara Lee Corporation, et al., Case No. 09-cv-01787 (S.D. Cal. Filed August 17, 2009). A copy of the complaint can be downloaded here.
One of Arnold’s products is a sandwich-sized flatbread (a supposed healthier alternative to a traditional bread bun) which Arnold markets under the name “Sandwich Thins” (and sometimes under the brand name Oroweat instead of Arnold). On June 16, 2009, Arnold registered the mark SANDWICH THINS (SANDWICH disclaimed) for “Bread” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
According to the complaint, Sara Lee recently sent out some marketing information to grocery stores nationwide promoting a similar sandwich-size flatbread product under the marks SANDWICH THINS and THINS marks that Sara Lee was planning to launch on September 14, 2009 (pictures can be seen on page 6 of the complaint although they are not very clear). Sara Lee’s advertisements even mentioned how Arnold’s products have established public awareness about such flatbread sandwich products.
Arnold claims that Sara Lee’s imminent use of the marks SANDWICH THINS and THINS in connection with the intended sandwich-sized flatbread goods, is likely to cause confusion with Arnold’s registered mark and will trade on the goodwill Arnold has established in the SANDWICH THINS mark.
So does Arnold have a “thin” trademark infringement case? Or is this another example of a company being on the forefront of establishing a particular brand name for a product and a competitor trying to trade on such goodwill with its own competing product?