First posted August 11, 2010.
The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man wreaked some havoc in his time, but who would have thought that his inspiration — the Pillsbury Doughboy — would act the part of a veritable Gozer the Destroyer himself, at the expense of a funky new-age bakery?
A few weeks ago, the founder of a Salt Lake City-based bakery, My Dough Girl, got a letter from General Mills, the conglomerate that owns Pillsbury. To the 45-year-old entrepreneur’s surprise, the food giant had written to inform her she needed to change the name of her business — claiming it was too similar to Pillsbury’s famous doughboy mascot — or she risked facing legal action. Cromar decided, essentially, that was just the way the cookie crumbles. “I started baking cookies as a way to bring happiness to myself and others, so I really didn’t need this to become some canker on my existence,” Cromar said. “Plus, I just don’t have the resources to fight them.” The case marks the second time in recent weeks that a major corporation has taken issue with a small business over possible trademark infringement.
“The second time in recent weeks,” eh? That must be awful.
Sit down, have a croissant. Let’s talk about this. Dough boy, dough boy, dough boy… where have I heard that? Right — over here (right) — those guys. But while there are batches and batches of DOUGHBOY trademark registrations — some dead, but plenty alive — it does seem that Pilsbury is understandably sensitive about the use of the term in association with baked goods, made famous by its lovable mascot, POPPIN’ FRESH® !
Well actually, a bunch of POPPIN’ FRESH registrations seem to have gone stale, but evidently he’s still a doll (Reg. No. 72307131), and ain’t he? Anyway, back to his, uh, generic name — the DOUGHBOY thing.
Well before we even talk about whether a bakery called DOUGH GIRL is likely to be confused with a commercial baked goods company’s DOUGHBOY , did you notice the graphic on top up there? How Pillsbury uses a “TM” instead of a ® symbol all over its site?
That is interesting, isn’t it? Pillsbury does, after all, have a couple of registrations — though not exactly the ones you’d think:
- Reg. No. 2832951 is for “Baking mix for cake,” in International Class 030 — Staple foods, baked goods, just what you’d think
- Reg. No. 2764538 is for “Refrigerated dough.” Same deal.
- Reg. No. 2091501 is for “Clothing, namely, T-shirts [and boxer shorts].” Class 25. Well, sure.
Ok, still, that seems close enough, doesn’t it? If I were Pillsbury I wouldn’t want anyone selling baked good using DOUGHBOY either, and I’ve got some good and famous registrations to help me stop them. So why does the Pillsbury site utilize the TM — a common-law assertion of trademark rights, rather than an indication of federal trademark registration — instead of the “circle R”? Read More…