Vienna Beef, Ltd. v. Red Hot Chicago, Inc., 833 F. Supp. 2d 870 (N.D. Ill. 2011)
Plaintiff Vienna Beef, who made and sold hot dogs and sausages, purchased a company called Vienna Sausage Manufacturing Company in the 1980s from the Ladany family. Vienna Sausage Manufacturing Company had sold sausages using the same family recipe for almost 100 years at the time of the purchase. In 1986, after a non-compete agreement with Plaintiff expired, one of the members of the Ladany family started Defendant Red Hot Chicago, Inc., which also made and sold hot dogs and sausages.
In 2011, Plaintiff sued for trademark infringement, false advertising, and unfair competition based on some of Defendant’s advertisements and promotional materials. Plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction, and the court denied Plaintiff’s motion.
The court held that Plaintiff failed to show a likelihood on the success of its false advertising claims because there was no evidence that Defendant’s statements regarding the length of time his family had been in the hot dog business were false. In fact, these statements were literally true, and Plaintiff offered no evidence of consumer confusion.
With respect to Plaintiff’s unfair competition and trademark claims, the court held that Defendant was using Plaintiff’s trademarks (MAKE ME ONE WITH EVERYTHING and DRAG IT THROUGH THE GARDEN) descriptively, there was no evidence of actual confusion, and the use of the phrases by Defendant did “not convey an attempt by [Defendant] to palm-off its hot dogs as Vienna Beef products.”
Additionally, Plaintiff failed to show it would be irreparably harmed, in part, because Defendant had used the relevant advertisements and promotional materials for years.
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