Trademark disputes can arise in connection with any type of product or service, which is why today we’re going to talk about a Hawaiian sweet rolls trademark lawsuit. I apologize in advance if reading this post leads you to break your low-carb diet.
King’s Hawaiian is certainly the most well-known brand of Hawaiian-style sweet rolls. Most carb consumers are familiar with the pull-apart rolls in the distinctive orange bag.
Recently, King’s sued the Aldi grocery store chain over the allegedly infringing packaging that Aldi uses for their store brand of Hawaiian sweet rolls. The lawsuit is King’s v. Aldi. You can compare the two packages in the image above.
King’s claims that the Defendant, Aldi is violating their rights as follows:
Defendant is selling in the United States sweet rolls that intentionally and willfully employ product packaging that is confusingly similar to the distinctive packaging trade dress that King’s Hawaiian uses in connection with its KING’S HAWAIIAN Original Hawaiian Sweet Rolls. Defendant’s conduct is likely to cause consumers to be confused, deceived or mistaken into believing that there is an affiliation, connection or association between Defendant and King’s Hawaiian, or that Defendant’s products originate from or are sponsored by or approved by King’s Hawaiian. Defendant’s conduct is also likely to dilute the strength of King’s Hawaiian’s packaging trade dress as an identifier of source and diminish the goodwill King’s Hawaiian has developed therein.
What Is Trade Dress?
One of the core issues here is whether or not Aldi has infringed on King’s protectable “trade dress.” Trade Dress is, more or less, a form of trademark protection that applies to the look and feel of a business or product. The distinctive shape of a Coca-Cola bottle is one well-known example of protected trade dress.
King’s has been in business since the 1950’s, but the distinctive packaging was introduced in 1983. They describe their packaging as including the following elements, which combine to form the distinctive trade dress:
(1) the prominent use of the color orange; (2) on the front of the package a clear window, with the color orange as the primary element around such clear window; (3) within the window, a light-colored element with contrasting writing; and (4) on the light-colored element, no word appears in larger font than the word “Hawaiian,” which is in a serif font…
The key takeaway here is that the trade dress in King’s packaging is made up of the combination of these elements. It’s certainly possible that a competitor could sell their bread rolls in a package that includes, say, a window with “a light-colored element with contrasting writing.”
King’s claims that Aldi has used all of these elements in their packaging and that they have…
…adopted and used its deceptively-similar packaging with the intent to trade off the enormous goodwill that King’s Hawaiian has earned in the King’s Hawaiian Sweet Roll Packaging Trade Dress, and the high-quality products with which it is used and, further, to cause consumers to be confused, deceived or mistaken into believing that there is an affiliation, connection or association between Defendant and King’s Hawaiian, or that Defendant’s sweet rolls originate from or are sponsored by or approved by King’s Hawaiian.
Does King’s Have a Good Case?
This seems like a clear-cut case of trade dress and trademark infringement. There’s no way Aldi could have selected all of these elements at random. They could only have done so with the intent to make their packaging similar to King’s packaging. There are an infinite number of ways that Aldi could have designed their bread roll packaging. I’m surprised the case has gotten this far, and I suspect that Aldi will settle rather than trying to defend their position through a long and costly trial.
The Key Takeaway
Make sure that the look and feel of your product (and the packaging, website, etc.) is not too similar to that of a more famous competitor.