Law

Kellogg’s Coffee Cinnamon Toast Cereal – Dismissed by a U.S. Circuit Court Judge

Lawyers for Kellogg’s nutrition are asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to block the current mark. Kellogg’s lawsuit, filed Nov. 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is seeking to invalidate the trademark application of Rassler USA, the owner of the mark. In the lawsuit, . the company asserts that its cereal products are unique and that no other company can successfully distinguish them from Rassler’s products.

The cereal and other related products, the lawsuit contends, have a distinctive taste and are therefore protected under the appropriate class of tangible items.

Specifically, the claim focuses on Kellogg’s Baby Cereal and its various variants, including Cheerios and Corn Cereals. Among the distinguishing qualities of these products, the suit maintains, is excessive sugar consumption. Specifically, the claim goes on to argue that because Rassler’s patented process added glucose to cereal, Kellogg’s breakfast cereal was no different from the sugar-rich offerings produced by Rassler.

The district court granted summary judgment to the defendant allowing for preliminary treatment of the issue of whether or not Kellogg’s breakfast cereal is distinctive.

On appeal, the company is contesting the district court’s granting of summary judgment. Specifically, the question before the Court is not whether or not Rassler’s mark can be protected as a registration mark, but whether or not Kellogg is entitled to an injunction against enforcement of the mark. The company argues that the evidence does not support a finding of likelihood of confusion as a basis for injunctive relief. Moreover, they further argue that the record does not support a finding of likelihood of confusion in relation to the word mark. Finally, the company contends that it will have to determine if there is a likelihood of market confusion to allow for an injunction against enforcement.

The complaint revolves around a period in which Rassler, Inc. began marketing its product, including both its own brand and a competing product under the Rassler name, in direct competition with Kellogg’s breakfast cereals.

At various times during this litigation, Rassler has added sugar to cereal sold through retailers in what appears to be an attempt to manipulate cereal buyers into buying more of their product. As a result, the cereal has been found to contain excessive sugar. Accordingly, the Kellogg’s lawsuit alleged that Rassler’s advertising efforts, as well as its use of a label indicating that the product contained only “all natural” or “bio-available” sugar were unfair because they tended to confuse consumers as to the nature of the product.

Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment to permit discovery to go forward to attempt to discover whether or not Kellogg’s Breakfast cereal was confusing due to the presence of Rassler’s patented loop dehorning device.

A recent article in this Legal Tips series discusses this motion and the potential impact it may have on a recent plaintiff’s attempt to obtain compensation for injuries resulting from an auto accident. For purposes of clarity, we note that plaintiffs who seek monetary damages are not entitled to recover for injuries or pain and suffering that may arise as a result of being injured or harmed as a result of defendant’s negligence or reckless conduct, unless those injuries arose as a result of the defendants’ conduct, either knowingly or recklessly.

In June of 2021, plaintiff’s counsel moved for summary judgment in support of their motion for summary judgment on the basis that Rassler failed to prove that its cereal was deceptive or misleading. Accordingly, Rassler moved for a new trial on the basis that plaintiffs had failed to establish that Rassler’s breakfast product was deceptive. On direct appeal, the court granted the motion. We discuss the impact this decision could have on the current case and on the future of the class-action lawsuit.

First, for purposes of simplicity, we note that the words “syrup” and “cheese” refer generally to any bread made from flour that has been reduced in size through the process of making cheese.

The specific reference in this example to “cheese” refers to defendant’s “reduced-sugar” breakfast product. Second, as noted above, we note that there is a critical distinction between “cheese” and “reduced-sugar” breakfast cereals. Plaintiffs have not alleged that defendant’s products were deceptive; they have alleged that they contained (and did contain) sugar. The word “reduced-sugar” is not used to describe any of defendant’s products in this case.

Plaintiffs argue that there is a likelihood of success on the merits of their lawsuit that will allow them to recover damages for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, past and future earning loss, future loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more. They further argue that if the company’s products were allowed to remain on the market after they were properly declared unfit for sale by the FDA as a Class Action, they would be liable for injuries and medical damages caused by the “reduced-sugar” breakfast food bar. Plaintiffs seek damages for all of these injuries and losses. We affirm the dismissal of plaintiffs’ complaint against Kellogg’s Coffee Cinnamon Toast Cereal because the evidence in support of their negligence is legally insufficient to establish liability.

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