August 2, 2021
Bill Barber and David Armendariz secured another win for firm client Frito-Lay North America, Inc. in its decade long battle against Princeton Vanguard over the generic term “pretzel crisps.”
On June 7, 2021, the U.S District Court for the Western District of North Carolina issued its final order and judgment in favor of Frito-Lay. The court’s thorough order illustrates the value and experience Pirkey Barber’s litigators bring to clients when complicated issues are at stake.
In 2009, Princeton Vanguard applied to register the term PRETZEL CRISPS as a trademark for pretzel crackers. Frito-Lay opposed that application and petitioned to cancel Princeton Vanguard’s supplemental registration for the same term, on the ground that “pretzel crisps” is generic and thus can never be registered or protected as a trademark. In 2015, The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) agreed with Frito-Lay in a precedential decision, holding that “pretzel crisps” is generic for Princeton Vanguard’s products. Princeton Vanguard appealed to the Federal Circuit, and on remand from that appeal, the TTAB once again sustained Frito-Lay’s opposition and cancellation on the ground that “pretzel crisps” is generic. The TTAB also found in the alternative that if not generic, “pretzel crisps” is highly descriptive and has not acquired distinctiveness.
Princeton Vanguard and its parent company, Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., appealed the second TTAB decision by filing a civil action under 15 U.S.C. § 1071(b) in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. In June 2021, the Court held a bench trial and considered oral argument from the parties. Pirkey Barber member Bill Barber argued the issue of genericness for Frito-Lay, and associate David Armendariz presented Frito-Lay’s argument that even if not generic, the highly descriptive term “pretzel crisps” had not acquired distinctiveness and thus Princeton Vanguard’s trademark application should be rejected. On June 7, 2021, the Court issued a 53-page Final Order and Judgment in favor of Frito-Lay finding that the term “pretzel crisps” is generic. The Court’s Order affirmed the TTAB’s decision sustaining Frito-Lay’s opposition, rejecting Princeton Vanguard’s application, and ordering cancellation of Princeton Vanguard’s supplemental registration.
Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., et al. v. Frito-Lay North America, Inc. is currently pending appeal to the Fourth Circuit under case number 21-1758. Snyder’s-Lance and Princeton Vanguard are represented by David Bernstein and James Pastore of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.