Tag Archives Illinois

A federal court in Illinois has denied summary judgment to both parties involved in a trademark dispute over the use of “pizza puffs,” finding that a reasonable jury could rule for either on the question of whether the term is generic. Illinois Tamale Co. v. El-Greg, Inc., No. 16-5387 (N.D. Ill., entered March 29, 2018). Illinois Tamale Co. alleges that El-Greg Inc.’s products infringe trademark and trade dress rights held since 1976. The court also refused Illinois Tamale’s motion for summary judgment on El-Greg’s fair-use defense, finding that a reasonable jury could find in favor of either party on each element of the defense.

An Illinois court has refused to dismiss Gold Medal Products Inc.'s lawsuit alleging that Bell Flavors and Fragrances Inc., with the help of a former Gold Medal employee, misappropriated trade secrets. Gold Medal Prods. Inc. v. Bell Flavors & Fragrances Inc., No. 17-4084 (N.D. Ill., entered March 2, 2018). Gold Medal alleged that its recipe and flavor profile for caramel Glaze Pop, a popcorn coating, are trade secrets, which the defendants allegedly misappropriated when the former employee helped Bell Flavors create a similar product for one of Gold Medal’s competitors. Denying Bell’s motion to dismiss, the court declined to establish whether Gold Medal could prove it owned trade secrets because the record was insufficient to support an analysis. The court rejected Bell’s argument that the recipe and flavor profile are not trade secrets because the ingredients are publicly listed and not patented by Gold Medal. Further, differences in the manufacturing…

A consumer has filed a putative class action alleging that Brew Dr. Kombucha misleadingly advertises its products as containing “billions” of probiotic bacteria. Bazer v. Brew Dr. Kombucha, No. 2018-2943 (Ill. Chancery Ct., Cook Cty., filed March 5, 2018). The plaintiff asserts that he bought several bottles of kombucha in different flavors because he heard about the benefits of the beverage and the probiotic bacteria it purportedly contains. According to the complaint, tests showed that the product contained about 50,000 bacterial colonies rather than the "billions" advertised on the bottle’s label. Claiming violations of consumer-protection laws, breach of warranties and unjust enrichment, the plaintiff seeks class certification, disgorgement and attorney’s fees.

An Illinois federal court has dismissed without prejudice a putative slack-fill class action against chocolatier Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc., ruling the plaintiffs provided only “bare-bones” factual allegations and failed to allege a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act that would allow their state law claims to avoid preemption. Benson v. Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc., No. 17-3519 (N.D. Ill., entered February 28, 2018). The court also dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim for injunctive relief, finding they lacked standing because they failed to adequately allege a risk of future harm. “[A]lready aware of Fannie May’s alleged deceptive practices, Plaintiffs cannot claim they will be deceived again in the future," the court held. In addition to the products they did purchase—Fannie May’s Pixies and Mint Meltaways—the plaintiffs also alleged that packages of eight other chocolate candies contained slack fill and brought the action on behalf of consumers who purchased…

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit alleging Chicago Meat Authority Inc. discriminated against African-Americans, resulting in multiple violations of U.S. civil rights statutes. U.S. Equal Opportunity Emp’t Comm’n v. Chicago Meat Authority, Inc., No. 18-1357 (N.D. Ill., filed February 22, 2018). EEOC alleges that the processor (i) failed to recruit or hire African-Americans because of their race; (ii) engaged in hiring practices that caused a disparate impact on the basis of race; (iii) fired an employee based on his race and in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity; (iv) subjected African-Americans to a hostile work environment that included frequent racial epithets and slurs as well as other offensive comments based on race; and (v) failed to take action to remedy the alleged harassment. EEOC seeks injunctive relief, an order that the defendant provide equal employment opportunities regardless of race and protected activity, back pay, front…

An Illinois federal court has dismissed a franchisee’s lawsuit alleging KFC wrongfully prevented him from advertising halal chicken, finding the franchise contract gave KFC control over advertising and promotional material. Lokhandwala v. KFC Corp., No. 17-5394 (N.D. Ill., entered January 23, 2018). Although the plaintiff alleged that KFC's prohibition on advertising dietary claims contradicted the earlier representations KFC had made to him, the court found that the franchise agreement gave KFC express power to change its advertising policies. In particular, the contract stated that “[n]o failure, forbearance, neglect or delay of any kind or extent on the part of KFC in connection” with enforcing and exercising its rights “shall affect or diminish KFC’s right to strictly enforce . . . this Agreement at any time.” The court ruled that given the contract’s “unambiguous language on advertising” as well as its integration clause, it would not consider extrinsic evidence of KFC’s…

An Illinois federal court has dismissed part of a putative class action against Lenny & Larry's Inc., holding that the plaintiffs lack standing and that the application of 50 differing state laws is “unmanageable on a class-wide basis because those states’ laws conflict in material ways.” Cowen v. Lenny & Larry’s Inc., No. 17-1530 (N.D. Ill., entered October 12, 2017). The complaint alleged that Lenny & Larry’s advertises “The Complete Cookie” as “Plant-Based Protein to Build Lean Muscle,” labeling the cookies as vegan, non-GMO, kosher, dairy-free and soy-free without artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. The four-ounce cookie is advertised as containing 16 grams of protein, but the plaintiffs allege that independent testing showed the actual protein content of each cookie can vary from four to nine grams. The court held that the named plaintiffs could not establish they had sustained an injury from cookie flavors they had not purchased. “[T]he…

Chicago officials have voted to repeal a sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax approved in November 2016 by the Cook County Board of Commissioners but delayed by a lawsuit arguing that the tax was unconstitutional. The tax took effect in August 2017 after a court dismissed the Illinois Retail Merchants Association's lawsuit. Retailers reportedly saw SSB sales decline 25 to 50 percent, while retailers with locations in surrounding counties not subject to the tax saw sales increase. In addition, the Chicago Tribune reported, "Internal polling for one Cook County commissioner showed more than 90 percent of constituents opposed the soda tax.” The repeal will take effect December 1, 2017. Other jurisdictions continue to experiment with SSB taxes. In April 2018, Ireland will begin taxing non-alcoholic, water- and juice-based drinks with an added sugar content of 5 grams or more per 100 milliliters. Pure fruit juices and dairy products will be exempt from the…

An Illinois federal court has dismissed with prejudice a lawsuit alleging that Mondelez International falsely advertises Belvita breakfast biscuits and cookies as providing “four hours of nutritious steady energy.” Spector v. Mondelez Int’l, No. 15-4298 (E.D. Ill., entered September 27, 2017). The court held that the plaintiff failed to allege plausible facts to support her claim of false advertising and could not “rely on mere allegation of falsity, which is conclusory and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth.” The plaintiff "appears to draw her own conclusions” about daily calorie requirements, the court noted, and her arguments about variability of metabolism that would cause a consumer to receive fewer than four hours of energy “proceed as if the inherent inconsistency is self-evident.”

A federal court has denied Lifeway Foods’ motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging the company fraudulently marketed its kefir beverage as 99 percent lactose-free despite containing 4 percent lactose. Block v. Lifeway Foods, No. 17-1717 (D.N. Ill., entered September 6, 2017). "[I]n some other cases, consumers have brought consumer fraud claims against food manufacturers based on discrepancies between the quality of the food and the manufacturer’s representations that are so minor as to be immaterial," the court noted. "[The plaintiff's] allegation that Lifeway’s plain, low-fat kefir contains 4%—instead of less than 1%—lactose may seem on its face to constitute a similarly immaterial discrepancy. But [the plaintiff] alleges that he purchased Lifeway’s kefir because it is nearly lactose-free and he wanted the health benefits that come from not consuming lactose. Products with 4% lactose—such as regular milk—are anything but lactose-free." The court dismissed two breach-of-warranty claims, noting that a…

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