In the latest twist in this long-running saga, the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina has found the term PRETZEL CRISPS to be generic for pretzel crackers. The court therefore upheld the decision of the TTAB [here] ordering cancellation of the PRETZEL CRISPS Supplemental Registration. The court observed that there was no dispute that the product was "hugely successful, due in no small part to Plaintiffs' extensive marketing efforts and the PRETZEL CRISPS trademark registration they received and have enforced to clear the field of similarly named products. However, no matter how much commercial success the product enjoys, Plaintiffs are not entitled to monopolize the common name of the product being sold." Snyder's Lance, Inc. and Princeton Vanguard, LLC v. Frito-Lay North America, Inc., (W.D.N.C. June 7, 2021).
Judge Kenneth Bell first considered whether the combination of the generic terms "pretzel" and "crisps" creates any additional meaning for consumers from which they can distinguish Plaintiff's product." He concluded that it did not, and therefore that PRETZEL CRISPS is generic.
The court did not rest its decision on that finding alone. Judge Bell reviewed in detail all the evidence submitted by the parties, including the dictionary definitions, usage by competitors and others in the field, media reference, plaintiff's own usage, press releases, business references, social media, and consumer surveys. [Of the two surveys submitted by plaintiff, one was "inconclusive" and the other supported a genericness finding.]
Summarizing the evidence on the genericness of the mark, considered as a whole, the Court finds that the combination of the acknowledged generic elements of the compound mark "yields no additional meaning to consumers capable of distinguishing the goods" and, independently, usage by competitors, media references and consumer surveys (as well as some use by Plaintiffs) reflects that, on balance, consumers primarily perceive "pretzel crisps" to be a common/generic name.
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