For years, Panera Bread has marketed itself as a better alternative to fast food. They bake their bread fresh in the stores, use quality ingredients and continuously come up with specials to draw in customers. In June 2015, Panera introduced a new advertising campaign called “Food as it should be.” This campaign marked the beginning of their promise to stop using artificial ingredients in their food. On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be a legal issue here. Enter trademark law.
One of the main purposes of trademark law is to protect against consumer confusion. Standing alone, the Panera slogan looks great. But compared to a marketing campaign previously launched by Great Harvest Bread Company, there may be a problem. Since August 2014, Great Harvest has used the slogan “Bread. The way it ought to be.” The company filed for a trademark registration in October 2014 and was registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in December 2015.
When Great Harvest realized that Panera was using their new slogan, they immediately thought that the two were very similar actos generic. The company believes that, because the two chains have overlapping goods and services, the slogans will likely make customers wrongfully believe that the two companies are related. This would be especially harmful to Great Harvest, as they are not nearly as big as Panera. The bakery currently has about 200 stores across the nation, and is looking to expand. They are worried that this confusion will hurt their chances, as customers will associate them with Panera, which currently has close to 2,000 restaurants.
Great Harvest has taken legal action to stop Panera from using their new phrase. Last fall, they sent Panera a cease and desist letter, to no avail. Instead, Panera sought to register their own slogan with the USPTO as a trademark in February 2015. Great Harvest countered by filing a lawsuit against the bread giant and also filed an objection with the USPTO. Great Harvest is seeking an injunction to stop Panera from using the phrase, the destruction of the advertising materials, and damages, as they are claiming that Panera is intentionally confusing consumers. The cases are ongoing, but what do you think? Would you confuse the slogans?