Judge Blocks Cracker Barrel From Grocery Shelf

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. is an American chain of Southern country themed restaurants with gift stores, originally founded by Dan Evins in 1969. Its first location was in Lebanon, Tennessee, which is now the company’s headquarters. The chain operates an estimated 620 stores in 42 states.

In November 2012, Cracker Barrel licensed its name to Smithfield Foods‘ John Morrell division in a deal to create a line of meat products. In January, Cracker Barrel announced plans to expand its line of products into groceries throughout the US, selling John Morrell meats in neighborhood supermarkets.

In response to this contract, Kraft Foods started a trademark infringement lawsuit in February 2013. Kraft has sold cheese under the Cracker Barrel brand in retail stores since 1950s and says that Cracker Barrel (store) has not made significant sales of retail food products beyond its menu. They’ve asked that the deal be nullified by the US District Court in Northern District of Illinois.

A federal judge in Chicago, US District Judge Robert Gettleman has temporarily blocked Cracker Barrel Old Country Store from moving forward and selling branded meats and other food items in grocery stores, reports USA Today. In his eight-page ruling, Gettleman agreed with Kraft Foods, saying the company had a strong case.

“The court finds that Kraft is likely to prevail on the merits of its trademark infringement and unfair competition claims,” as Kraft argues consumers would be confused over the purchase of their branded Cracker Barrel cheese, reports The Tennessean.

A market research expert for Kraft was able to demonstrate grounds for consumer confusion – noting an online survey where people were shown pictures of the products and asked to identify the manufacturer. On average, one in four incorrectly identified the maker of the cheese.

Additionally, Kraft’s trademark has been used since 1957, over a decade longer than Cracker Barrel has been in operation; further strengthening their case.

The lawyers representing the iconic restaurant chain are considering action to appeal the ruling.

[Image via Wikicommons]