Hormel makes bacon for human consumption, while Nestlé Purina makes bacon — or Beggin’ Strips — for dogs. The bacon and Beggin’ worlds have generally played nice with each other, but then Purina came out with “Black Label” Beggin’ Strips, which hits too close to home for Hormel.
In a federal lawsuit [PDF] filed last week in a Minnesota court, Hormel accuses Purina of trademark infringement and false designation for using the “black label” description to advertise a new line of dog treats.
Hormel takes issue with the Jan. 2017 launch of Purina’s new line of bacon-shaped “real meat” dog treats that use of the designation “black label,” the same mark Hormel has used on products since 1963.
According to the lawsuit, Purina’s recent use of the “black label” designation is likely to cause confusion among customers related to the origin or sponsorship of Purina’s products.
Purina’s products feature a large image of bacon-shaped treats touting that it contains “real pork” as the “no. 1 ingredient,” and the “black label” designation front and center.
Additionally, Hormel claims that Purina has created advertisements showing that its products have the appearance of real bacon, which the company depicts in ads as floating against a black backdrop, a look “strikingly similar to a number of Hormel advertisements for its Black Label brand products.”
Hormel further claims that Purina has purchased keyword search advertising for the terms “black label bacon.” When a customer searches the terms sponsored online advertisements for Purina’s black label bacon-shaped dog treats are triggered.
In addition to plastering the label on packages of treats, Hormel claims that Purina has also used Hormel’s likeness in television advertisements for the treats.
One specific commercial from 2012, titled “Beggin’ Strips — Get That Bacon on the Meat Aisle,” features a dog sniffing down a grocery bacon case, with shots that include Hormel’s Black Label bacon.
Hormel contends that it approached Purina about the use of black label in January. However, the company has continued “its wrongful use of the identical mark in connection with bacon-shaped ‘real meat’ dog treats.”
“By using BLACK LABEL in connection with its bacon-shaped, ‘real meat’ dog treats without Hormel Foods’s authorization, [Purina] is causing consumer confusion, mistake or deception, and is willfully and intentionally trading upon the goodwill in the BLACK LABEL mark that Hormel Foods has developed at its considerable expense and effort,” the lawsuit states.
Hormel claims that by using the label Purina “has caused and is causing Hormel Foods substantial and irreparable harm and injury.”
Consumerist is reaching out to Purina for comment and will update when we receive a response.