The Decades-Long Trademark Dispute Over 'Pretzel Crisps' Comes To Its Obvious End

from the getting-twisted dept

It’s quite incredible how often the unfortunate growth of ownership culture in America produces silly trademark disputes over terms that obviously shouldn’t be valid trademarks. While examples of this are legion, let’s get right into what has become a decade-plus long dispute over “pretzel crisps”. Snyder’s, acquired by Princeton Vanguard, has long made a “pretzel crisp” product. In 2004, the USPTO registered the company’s “pretzel crisp” mark, but as a supplemental to an earlier registration, deeming it “descriptive”. If you want to argue that the term “pretzel crisp” is not descriptive, well, don’t because you’re wrong. Even Princeton Vanguard didn’t argue differently until 2009, when it attempted to argue that the term had acquired distinctiveness in the public, associated with the company’s brand and product. The USPTO remained unconvinced when Frito-Lay opposed the registration as it had its own similar product, with that opposition going so far as to actually seek to have any registration for the term canceled as generic.

From there, the companies found themselves in lawsuit-land.

(Note to the reader: this is normally where I would include a useful pull-quote from the bakeryandsnacks.com link above about how two federal appeals courts ruled against Snyder’s, affirming the mark as generic, but unfortunately that website seems to think that disallowing any copy/paste of its text is somehow the same as enforcing copyright. When attempting to do so, you get a copyright warning. Now, I could simply type out the quote and use the text anyway, given that such use would fall squarely in fair use territory, but instead I’ll use this space to give a big “fuck you!” to bakeryandsnacks.com. You’re welcome for some traffic, you restrictive ass-bags!)

Anyhoo, while two losses in federal court really should have been the end of this, yet another civil action was brought by Princeton Vanguard in the US District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. Both parties asked for summary judgement as to whether the term “pretzel crisp” can be registered as a trademark or if it’s generic. The court declined to grant summary judgement based on a procedural technicality. But the court did still rule on the overall question of the generic nature of the term.

Especially significant here, the law forbids trademarking generic terms, even when a putative mark holder engages in successful efforts to establish consumer recognition of an otherwise generic term. Id. at 193-94. “[N]o matter how much money and effort the user of a generic term has poured into promoting the sale of its merchandise and what success it has achieved in securing public identification, it cannot deprive competing manufacturers of the product of the right to call an article by its name.”…In sum, courts have long sought to foreclose companies from monopolizing common terms, holding that no single competitor has the right to “corner the market” on ordinary words and phrases.

From there, the court gets into a long discussion on the standards of determining if a term is generic, with specific standards around the combining of two descriptive or generic terms and how that effects the compound term’s generic or not nature. It’s all very interesting if you’re into that sort of thing, as am I, but the court’s conclusion is the larger point.

Although the Court concludes that the combination of the generic elements “pretzel” and “crisps” does not create any additional meaning for consumers from which they can distinguish Plaintiffs’ product and thus indicates that PRETZEL CRISPS is generic, the Court does not rest its finding of genericness on that finding. Rather, after considering de novo all the evidence offered by the Parties which bears on consumers’ perception of the mark, the Court finds that, on balance, a preponderance of the evidence supports the conclusion that the mark, considered only in its entirety, is generic.

Of course it is. The term “pretzel crisp” tells you absolutely nothing about who produced that product. The rest of the branding on the packaging has to do that instead. Why? Well, because the term “pretzel crisp” merely tells you what product is in the bag or box you’re buying. It’s descriptive, a generic term for a type of foodstuff.

Meanwhile, this order is 53 pages long, filled with the history of this dispute, with survey evidence brought by both parties, legal standards and the like, all just to outline why, for the fourth time now, someone has had to tell Snyder’s that “pretzel crisp” is a generic term.

If that isn’t a perfect example of how insane ownership culture is, I can’t imagine what would be.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: frito-lay, princeton vanguard, snyders

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “The Decades-Long Trademark Dispute Over 'Pretzel Crisps' Comes To Its Obvious End”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
10 Comments
JoeCoolsays:

Cut-n-Paste

but unfortunately that website seems to think that disallowing any copy/paste of its text is somehow the same as enforcing copyright. When attempting to do so, you get a copyright warning.

Get the add-on "Absolute Enable Right Click & Copy" – it gets rid of that kind of nonsense. I tried the site you mention (may it forever not get traffic), and it works like a charm.

Who Caressays:

Re: Re: Cut-n-Paste

You are right that there are more solutions.
Anything that goes after Javascript (NoScript for example) works but I do suggest an add-on like JoeCool suggested since those are more targeted then nuking all Javascript.

examples for the 5 most popular browsers on PC:
Safari – Right Click.
Chrome – Absolute Enable Right Click & Copy.
Edge – Allow Right-Click.
FireFox – Absolute Enable Right Click & Copy.
Opera – Allow Right-Click.

Anonymoussays:

It’s simple no company should be able to trademark simple generic common words like pizza chocolate etc apple has the trademark on apple computers , eg electronic products like phones smartwatchs tablets
It does not stop people from selling apples or other fruit
It would restrict competition if someone could trademark chocolate biscuit or hot pizza

Bobvioussays:

Pull-quote

"????u uo??o? ??? ?s?lodouo? ?ouu?? ???npo?d ??? ‘s??npo?d p???u ?l??l???s ?o pl??? ??? ???l? o? s??o??? uo?????s???? ?????p??? s?? o? s?u??? ?l??????d s???us s,??p?uS o? ????? o? s???nsuo? ?q p??nss? ?l?p?? s? ,,sds??? l?z???d,, ??no??l? ‘ll?q ??pn? o? ?u?p?o??? ?(?u?d?o? dnoS ll?qd??? ?q p?u?o ?ou) s,??p?uS ?q p????o? ?nd ?u??n??? ??? p?ss??s?p sl??dd? ?o ??no? ??n???? S? ??? ??? ?q ?u?ln? ?u???? ?so? ??? ‘u???? ?????u?? s? ???? ??? ???? p?ln? ?l?u?nb?sqns ???? ‘??0? u? ??n???? ??6 ??? pu? ??0? u? ??n???? ??? ??? ‘s??no? sl??dd? l???p?? o??"

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
13:40 It's Great That Winnie The Pooh Is In The Public Domain; But He Should Have Been Free In 1982 (Or Earlier) (35)
12:06 Norton 360 Now Comes With Crypto Mining Capabilities And Sketchy Removal Process (28)
10:45 Chinese Government Dragnet Now Folding In American Social Media Platforms To Silence Dissent (14)
10:40 Daily Deal: The 2022 Ultimate Cybersecurity Analyst Preparation Bundle (0)
09:29 A Fight Between Facebook And The British Medical Journal Highlights The Difficulty Of Moderating 'Medical Misinformation' (9)
06:29 Court Ruling Paves The Way For Better, More Reliable Wi-Fi (4)
20:12 Eighth Circuit (Again) Says There's Nothing Wrong With Detaining Innocent Minors At Gunpoint (15)
15:48 China's Regulatory War On Its Gaming Industry Racks Up 14k Casualties (10)
13:31 Chinese Government Fines Local Car Dealerships For Surveilling While Not Being The Government (5)
12:08 Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay (29)
10:44 ICE Is So Toxic That The DHS's Investigative Wing Is Asking To Be Completely Separated From It (29)
10:39 Daily Deal: The 2022 Complete Raspberry Pi And Arduino Developer Bundle (0)
09:31 Google Blocked An Article About Police From The Intercept... Because The Title Included A Phrase That Was Also A Movie Title (24)
06:22 Wireless Carriers Balk At FAA Demand For 5G Deployment Delays Amid Shaky Safety Concerns (16)
19:53 Tenth Circuit Denies Qualified Immunity To Social Worker Who Fabricated A Mother's Confession Of Child Abuse (35)
15:39 Sci-Hub's Creator Thinks Academic Publishers, Not Her Site, Are The Real Threat To Science, And Says: 'Any Law Against Knowledge Is Fundamentally Unjust' (34)
13:32 Federal Court Tells Proud Boys Defendants That Raiding The Capitol Building Isn't Covered By The First Amendment (25)
12:14 US Courts Realizing They Have A Judge Alan Albright Sized Problem In Waco (17)
10:44 Boston Police Department Used Forfeiture Funds To Hide Purchase Of Surveillance Tech From City Reps (16)
10:39 Daily Deal: The Ultimate Microsoft Excel Training Bundle (0)
09:20 NY Senator Proposes Ridiculously Unconstitutional Social Media Law That Is The Mirror Opposite Of Equally Unconstitutional Laws In Florida & Texas (25)
06:12 Telecom Monopolies Are Exploiting Crappy U.S. Broadband Maps To Block Community Broadband Grant Requests (7)
12:00 Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of 2021 At Techdirt (17)
10:00 Gaming Like It's 1926: Join The Fourth Annual Public Domain Game Jam (6)
09:00 New Year's Message: The Arc Of The Moral Universe Is A Twisty Path (33)
19:39 DHS, ICE Begin Body Camera Pilot Program With Surprisingly Good Policies In Place (7)
15:29 Remembering Techdirt Contributors Sherwin And Elliot (1)
13:32 DC Metro PD's Powerful Review Panel Keeps Giving Bad Cops Their Jobs Back (6)
12:11 Missouri Governor Still Expects Journalists To Be Prosecuted For Showing How His Admin Leaked Teacher Social Security Numbers (39)
10:48 Oversight Board Overturning Instagram Takedown Of Ayahuasca Post Demonstrates The Impossibility Of Content Moderation (10)
More arrow
This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it