Klein & Wilson

Ina Garten files suit over look-alike frozen dinners

According to court documents, Ina Garten, who is better known as the Barefoot Contessa, filed a lawsuit against a California company in a Manhattan federal court on Feb. 17. In her complaint, Ms. Garten alleges the company, OFI Imports, Inc., sold frozen dinners that looked like those marketed by her without permission.

Ms. Garten has a cooking show on the Food Network called "The Barefoot Contessa", and at one time operated a store on Long Island under that name. The frozen dinners were previously sold under a license from Ms. Garten by Contessa Premium Foods from February 2013 until the company went out of business in 2014. Reportedly, Ms. Garten had requested that OFI stop selling the meals, but the company reportedly refused to do so.

OFI Imports, Inc., reportedly acquired Contessa Premium Foods in 2014. Ms. Garten asserts, however, that the acquisition did not include the licensing privileges previously granted to Premium Foods. She is seeking damages in addition to an order to stop sales of the frozen meals. OFI Imports did not respond to requests for comment regarding the dispute and resulting lawsuit.

People often establish trademarks in order to protect their business's identity. Doing so can help ensure that other businesses do not use the trademark in order to sell similar products, thus protecting the business's bottom line, identity and customer base from infringement. When a trademark dispute, such as the one in this case, arises, resulting litigation may be expensive but unavoidable. Businesses which have suffered from the trademark infringement of another company may be able to recover significant damages awards in order to provide payment for the losses suffered. Companies that intend to do business on a national level may often want to trademark the name, logo and other identifying information the company will use.

Source: ABC News, "Barefoot Contessa Files Lawsuit Over Frozen Dinners", Associated Press, Feb. 18, 2015

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