Intellectual Property Law

Pinkberry Suits Seek to Put Freeze on Yogurt Competitors

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What do Yoberry, Yogiberry, Peachberry and Monkee’s Teriyaki, among others, all have in common?

Allegedly, they are copycat frozen yogurt shops seeking to take something of a free ride on the “highly distinctive branding” of three-year-old Pinkberry Inc., reports the Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles-based chain has 65 outlets in California and New York.

Hence, three-year-old Pinkberry has sued these competitors, along with several others, apparently alleging trademark infringement and related claims.

According to Mark Friedman, a Pinkberry vice president and general counsel, the competing businesses are too-closely copying either Pinkberry’s characteristic fruit-shaped swirl, its stores’ minimalist layout or its name, the newspaper writes.

“It’s a new company, and its unique marks are a big part of its business,” says Jack Lerner, who is serving as acting director of the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic at the University of Southern California. “The question is whether these other stores’ names and the ways the stores are designed create confusion. If they do, these newcomers are going to have a problem.”

The Times article doesn’t say where the six Pinkberry lawsuits filed this week against frozen yogurt competitors were brought, but an Internet search indicates that they were filed in various federal district courts where the competitors are located.

An earlier lawsuit filed against Pinkberry by a disgruntled customer who happened to be a legal recruiter contended that the chain’s frozen concoctions aren’t actually yogurt. It has been settled with a $750,000 charitable contribution by Pinkberry, a new mixing protocol and additional disclosure of product ingredients, the Times notes.

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