Flour Company Accuses Trader Joe's of Trade Dress Infringement.

PITTSBURG, May 6, 2009 -- The King Arthur Flour Company Inc. has accused grocery store chain Trader Joe's of unlawfully copying its distinctive flour packaging.

In the federal complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, the King Arthur Flour Company Inc. has accused Trader Joe's of selling flour is packaging so similar to their product that consumers are likely to think they are buying King Arthur flour.

As early as October, 1896, King Arthur Flour, through its predecessor, has consistently used the name and a representative image of the legendary King Arthur, medieval banners, and other indicia of Old English royalty on its packaging and advertisements. Trader Joe's is accused of emulating this theme with its flour product.

The packaging or overall appearance of a product, known as trade dress, can be so unique as to serve as an identifier of the source of the product which is entitled to protection under the law. Generally, the first party to adopt a trademark or trade dress has the superior claim of ownership and can prohibit others from using something similar.

Trade dress can be registered with the U.S. government. Registration offers the registrant benefits such as: notice to the public of use and ownership, the ability to recovery attorneys fees, and punitive damages against willful infringers. The pleading filed by King Arthur Flour does not contain an assertion that its trade dress has been registered.

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