Heinz suing Boulder Brands over trademark dispute

BOULDER – Pittsburgh-based H.J. Heinz Co. (NYSE: HNZ) filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania last week against Boulder Brands Inc. (Nasdaq: BDBD) over a trademark dispute between the two that dates back to 2010.

A Boulder Brands spokesperson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

At issue in the suit are a pair of trademark applications filed by Boulder Brands in 2009. The applications expressed intent to use the company’s Smart Balance brand in connection with frozen appetizers and entrees, chips, snack mixes, cakes and other products, according to the suit.

Heinz filed a notice of opposition against the Boulder Brands applications with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board in 2010, arguing that the use of Smart Balance in conjunction with such products would be “confusingly similar” to Heinz’s own Smart Ones line of frozen entrees. Heinz argued that Boulder Brands’ use of the Smart Balance name on those products would dilute Heinz’s Smart Ones mark.

The TTAB, however, disagreed. After a hearing before the TTAB last year, a three-member panel dismissed the notice of opposition, finding that Heinz’s concerns were unfounded.

Heinz believes the TTAB erred in its findings and is asking the court to reverse and vacate the panel’s decision; to direct the director of trademarks to deny registration of Boulder’s applications; to declare that use of the Smart Balance mark on the specified products would indeed cause confusion or deceive consumers; to declare the use of the Smart Balance mark would dilute the distinctiveness of the Smart Ones mark; and to award attorneys fees and other relief.

The suit is the third filed against Boulder Brands in the last several weeks. The other two were class-action suits filed by shareholders who allege that the company made false and misleading statements and failed to disclose adverse details related to the company’s financial health and outlook.