Labels too closely resemble Spam packages, lawsuit alleges
The iconic yellow and blue packaging used on Spam canned meat products is at the heart of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, with Austin-based Hormel Foods Corp. alleging that a Cincinnati-based food manufacturer is using packages that are "confusingly similar."
Filed Wednesday, the suit claims that Zwanenberg Food Group has sold meat products under the brand name Prem in both the United States and abroad in yellow and blue packages that resemble Spam packaging.
Zwanenberg started producing the products in October 2010, the suit alleges. Hormel sent Zwanenberg a cease-and-desist letter on Oct. 11, 2010, and Zwanenberg agreed to change the yellow and blue design to a red and white design, according to court documents.
Zwanenberg later started selling products in a modified yellow and blue design in the Philippines, the suit alleges. Hormel wrote Zwanenberg inquiring about the modified design, and Zwanenberg replied that the new design was different than the packaging it agreed in October to stop using, court documents say.
On March 14, Hormel officials learned that Zwanenberg was also allegedly selling products with yellow and blue packaging in Okinawa, Japan. Hormel officials allege that the sale of the products continues after another cease-and-desist letter was sent.
Hormel's allegations include trademark infringement, trademark dilution, trade dress infringement, trade dress dilution, unfair competition, violation of the Minnesota Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and breach of contract.
Hormel has demanded a jury trial and seeks a permanent end to Zwanenberg's original yellow and blue design, the modified design, or any variation on those designs. Hormel also seeks a judgment requiring Zwanenberg to account to Hormel Zwanenberg's profits and actual damages suffered by Hormel as a result of the yellow and blue labels being used.
A Zwanenberg spokesman said the company has yet to review the lawsuit and isn't commenting on it at this time.