Kraft Threatens Cooking Teacher With Trademark Claim For Teaching Students To Cook Beyond Kraft Mac & Cheese

from the morons-in-a-hurry dept

I haven't had Kraft Mac & Cheese since I was a kid, and had no idea it went under different names in different countries. Apparently, up in Canada, it's called the Kraft Dinner or KD for short, where it's apparently even more iconic than in the US (where it's still pretty iconic). Either way, Kraft is upset. That's because a cooking instructor in Calgary, who had set up a free cooking class for students called "Kick the KD," is apparently violating its trademarks (via Rob Hyndman) -- and, yes, the company trademarked "KD." I don't know how different trademark law in Canada is compared to the US, but this seems like a pretty specious claim. First of all, there's no use in commerce. It's a free cooking-class put on by a non-profit. Second, there's no likelihood of confusion going on here, because it's not like anyone hearing about the Kick the KD is going to think it's associated with or sponsored by Kraft when the whole point is to get people to think about actually cooking their meals, rather than just breaking out a box of "KD" (I'm picking up the lingo). Now, of course, you can understand why it might upset Kraft that there's a class being taught to students about how to cook beyond the near instant simplicity of its Mac & Cheese, but that doesn't make it a trademark violation. Still, the class's instructor doesn't want to fight Kraft, so he's changing the name. Trademark bullies chalk up another win.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 8:33am

    One question I have is how do they find these people? This has always confused me how a huge company finds some teacher or business owner and threatens them with TM violation or dilution. Do they hire people just to scour the internet and newspaper for these things?

     

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  2.  
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    Hugues Lamy (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 8:42am

    Scouring the Newspaper, TV & Internet

    I used to work for that kind of company. I was watching the television all day long to get any mentioned on the customer we have. At this time, it was more for public relation management, but I can imagine that the services were beefed up with the recent years.

    For 8 hours straight, I was listening, to 2 radio stations (one French and one English) as watch one or two TVs. During the night, two guys were coming it to do the same on the magazines and the newspaper. I'm glad I'm not doing this anymore.

    For the internet, you have some alert services like Google to help you manage your PR on the internet.

    Take care.

     

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  3.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 8:42am

    Re:

    Yes, they do. Articles have been written here about the MPAA/RIAA and other copyright trolls doing it. 4 Kids TV has at least one guy on staff that just spends all day flagging videos on Youtube.

    I can't say that's what Kraft does, but we have seen others, so I wouldn't be surprised if they did.

    Now I want macaroni and cheese, light on the milk and butter with tuna. I only have access to the real stuff right now, and while good, not what I want.

     

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  4.  
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    Pitabred (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 8:51am

    Retitling the class

    I humbly suggest the instructor retitle it "Kick the Crap Dinner". It'd piss Kraft off to no end, and I can't imagine how it'd be legally actionable. Especially if it can ride in on a wave of publicity after this stunt.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Howard, Cowering, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 8:56am

    Re: #4 Retitling the class

    Or "Kick the box - craft dinner!" gets the point across without mentioning anyone's mark...

     

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  6.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 8:59am

    Pro Tip

    For those that, like me, still enjoy their Mac & Cheese: mix in a dusting of chili powder when you're mixing ingredients.

    Cheap chili mac FTW!

     

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  7.  
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    Greg G (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 8:59am

    Ahh Kraft

    I'm glad I've moved on to making my own Mac & Cheese, so much better when you can use 3, 4, or 5 cheeses and add something other than sliced hot dogs (don't get me wrong, those are still good in mac & cheese), like lobster.

    Kraft is just pissed off that someone's trying to get kids to move beyond the nastiness that is powdered cheese sauce.

    The instructor could just say KD stands for Kitchen Doldrums or something, and tell Kraft to just go away.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 9:08am

    Re: Ahh Kraft

    Well, you could do lobster in the Kraft stuff as well, but, yeah. Pearls before swine and all that.

     

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  9.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 9:13am

    Re: Re: Ahh Kraft

    "Well, you could do lobster in the Kraft stuff as well, but, yeah. Pearls before swine and all that."

    Nah, that'd be OYSTERS in Kraft, which is just gross....

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 9:19am

    Be careful when using the word "commerce".

    While this matter pertains to Canada, in the US "commerce" has a distinctive meaning, and if this situation arose in the US it would almost certainly be viewed as involving "commerce".

    The far more interesting question concerning what "commerce" means is being bandied about in legal circles with regard to the health insurance "mandate". The Affordable Health Care Act was enacted under Congress' "Commerce Clause" power under Article I of the Constitution. It chose this power over the "Tax Clause".

    This has given grist for the mill of those who are challenging the mandate. The question is quite easily framed. How can choosing not to do something (buy insurance) even remotely be viewed as engaging in commerce? Commerce is viewed as an activity. The mandate is including within its scope "inactivity".

    Imagine, if you will, a hypothetical act by Congress entitled "The Public Transportation Act of 2011", the terms of which include a mandate that people use public transportation. One choosing to walk, or ride a bike, or use alternate means of getting from Point A to Point B, by engaging the the act of not purchasing a bus ticket and riding the bus, would be subject to a federal financial levy.

    Given the financial constraints each of us face daily in making choices concerning what to buy and what not to buy, it is indeed a scary proposition that through the use of the Commerce Clause we might be faced with an invoice from the Feds because we make spending choices not in line with what the Feds have determined we should be making.

    In the big scheme of things I find this overreaching exercise of federal power far more troubling than worries about Kraft expressing concerns its products are being dissed by a course name.

     

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  11.  
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    Drew (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 9:36am

    Re: AC who is confused...Trademark not Health Care

    Wow, the AC strikes again trying to change the subject to health care of all things. This is about trademark, get a grip.

     

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  12.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 9:43am

    Re:

    While this matter pertains to Canada, in the US "commerce" has a distinctive meaning, and if this situation arose in the US it would almost certainly be viewed as involving "commerce".

    How is this any different than getting a domain like kraftdinnersucks.com?

    BTW, I got an idea for their website.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 9:51am

    Re: Re: AC who is confused...Trademark not Health Care

    Wrong. My comment was limited solely to the use of the word "commerce" in the article, and that "commerce" has a meaning within the US far broader than many here might believe is actually the case.

    Is is admittedly a segue into another area, but one that might serve a useful purpose for any number of reasons. Perhaps you might want to think about it in terms of P2P transfers. Congress does have the power to try and use the commerce clause and/or the tax clause as alternates should the Copyright and Patent Clause fall short of the mark.

    Downloading and uploading is an activity that falls within the regulatory powers of both states (intrastate activity) and the federal governmet (interstate and international activity). The pernicious effect of these is that they might apply to both legal and illegal downloads and uploads.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Danny, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 9:51am

    Re:

    Do they hire people just to scour the internet and newspaper for these things?
    That's exactly what they are doing.

    Instead of oh I don't know, actually working on product they would rather spend their money looking for people they can either bully for money or bully into oblivion.

     

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  15.  
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    Danny, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 9:53am

    Re: Retitling the class

    Oh maybe, "Cooking Outside the Box".

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    Should change it to :

    Kick the Krap

     

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  17.  
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    Pitabred (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 10:16am

    Re: Pro Tip

    Aye. I'll sometimes toss in some soy sauce, too. Frozen veggies make a great addition about halfway through boiling the noodles (peas, carrots, beans, stuff that boils well). Sometimes adding a can of tuna is good too, after cooking when you're mixing it all together.

    All kinds of great ways to enjoy your mac & "cheese" ;)

     

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  18.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re:

    you shoud get terrance and phillip to be your spokesmen.

    i see nothing but buckets of awesome coming out of that.

     

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  19.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re: Ahh Kraft

    putting lobster in kraft would be more like pearls IN swine.

    actually, it wouldnt be 'more like'... it'd be exactly that.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    JC, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 10:36am

    kraft and puffs of smoke

    I seem to remember that Philip Moris bought Kraft foods a few years back.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    chris, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 10:48am

    The system is broken because the threat of a lawsuit from a large company is so intimidating to individuals that they will almost always cave rather than try to defend themselves. This fact makes filing these types of suits almost as good as writing the laws yourself.

    Maybe we should outlaw settlements. That way, it's either win or bust and we might see a huge drop in businesses suing individuals and other businesses.

     

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  22.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: Pro Tip

    Hell, you should see the things I learned to do with Ramen noodles when I was just out of college. Gourmet, I tell ya!

     

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  23.  
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    Squidoo (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 11:38am

    Re:

    I have to admit, I once ratted out a website to a company for copyright infringement, but I did it because the guy running the site was a homophobe. I forget how I came across the site, but it was run by a guy calling himself Tony "the Tiger" hislastname. I actually went to Kelloggs' website and emailed them about this guy. I got a response back that their legal department would take care of it.

     

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  24.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Re:

    Maybe we should outlaw settlements. That way, it's either win or bust and we might see a huge drop in businesses suing individuals and other businesses.

    Nah. That encourages the corps to fight to the proverbial death.

    Loser pays has slightly more promise, but then you just end up with a lot of Hollywood Accounting spread across a lot of junior partners.

     

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  25.  
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    Ron Rezendes (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Retitling the class

    How about "Kick the Krap Dinner" just so Kraft knows they're the target!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    A different danny (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 1:00pm

    This lawsuit is the cheesiest!

    Or at least that is what every news headline about the case should read.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Leo, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 1:31pm

    Another One Bites the Dust

    Steve walks warily down the street,
    With the brim pulled way down low
    Ain't no sound but the sound of his feet,
    Machine guns ready to go
    Are you ready, Are you ready for this
    Are you hanging on the edge of your seat
    Out of the doorway the bullets rip
    To the sound of the beat

    Another one bites the dust
    Another one bites the dust
    And another one gone, and another one gone
    Another one bites the dust
    Hey, I'm gonna get you too
    Another one bites the dust

    How do you think I'm going to get along,
    Without Kraft Mac & Cheese, when you're gone
    You took me for everything that I had,
    And kicked me out on my own

    Are you happy, are you satisfied
    How long can you stand the cheesiness
    Out of the doorway the bullets rip
    To the sound of the Mac & Cheese


    Another one bites the dust
    Another one bites the dust
    Another one bites the dust
    Another one bites the dust
    There are plenty of ways you can hurt a man
    And bring cheese to the ground
    You can beat him
    You can cheese him
    You can treat him bad and leave him
    When he's down
    But I'm ready, yes I'm ready for you
    I'm standing on my own powdered cheese wheels
    Out of the doorway the bullets rip
    Repeating the sound of the cheese.

     

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  28.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 3:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Pro Tip

    We should do a Techdirt cookbook.

    A packet of leftover mustard sauce from Chinese takeaway really spices up some split-pea soup.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Drew (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: AC who is confused...Trademark not Health Care

    Although true that the term commerce includes many things lets maybe try and stay on topic, which is 'trademark law' not Health care or downloading. In regards to 'trademark law', at least in the U.S., a particular use must be in commerce to be a violation of the mark. Thanks for trying to defend your attempted change of topic though.

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 4:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: AC who is confused...Trademark not Health Care

    Use in commerce for purposes of US trademark law is typically a publication of some form in which a mark appears. Thus, were this matter taking place in the US it would almost certainly meet the criteria.

    As for hijacking, perhaps so, but at least an attempt to do more than come up with names for a course or new slogan.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 4:30pm

    Home cooking is killing the restaurant industry

    Just like the recording companies once tried to argue that home recording was killing the music industry, it looks like some people at Kraft realized the huge losses they would have to endure if people started to cook their own food instead of eating junk food. And they are just as right as the recording companies were.

    Consider the implications if everybody could just cook their own food: Nobody would go to restaurants and pay for their meals any more. All the restaurants would go out of business, with millions of people going into unemployment and billions of dollars that would have been used at restaurants disappearing from the economy. With no restaurants there would be no education of new chefs, and after some time nobody would know how to cook, and all of humanity would starve to extinction!

    I understand why Kraft would want to stop this, thought I think they are a bit too soft by going to the courts.

    Remember that these criminals are not just learning people a craft that will result in the extinction of man. They are doing it for free. For free! Damn communists! I think we should all bring out our pitchforks and have a little lynch party.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Drew (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: AC who is confused...Trademark not Health Care

    "Use in commerce for purposes of US trademark law is typically a publication of some form in which a mark appears."

    I don't recall seeing that definition in the US trademark law, please correct me if I missed something in 15 USC Sec. 1127:

    "The term “use in commerce” means the bona fide use of a mark in the ordinary course of trade, and not made merely to reserve a right in a mark. For purposes of this chapter, a mark shall be deemed to be in use in commerce—
    (1) on goods when—
    (A) it is placed in any manner on the goods or their containers or the displays associated therewith or on the tags or labels affixed thereto, or if the nature of the goods makes such placement impracticable, then on documents associated with the goods or their sale, and
    (B) the goods are sold or transported in commerce, and
    (2) on services when it is used or displayed in the sale or advertising of services and the services are rendered in commerce, or the services are rendered in more than one State or in the United States and a foreign country and the person rendering the services is engaged in commerce in connection with the services."

    Now a case could be made that a free course could be a 'use in commerce' if the free course was part of an advertising campaign to bring in business for other paid courses. It seems pretty clear to me here that Mr. Clapson was offering these free cooking classes solely to aid college students eating habits and not as any part in a Machiavellian scheme to bring in more business to his cooking blog and in my opinion a court would have agreed. Looking into the Canadian Trade-marks Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. T-13) it seems like this still wouldn't be a violation as there is no likelihood of confusion that this cooking class was offered by Kraft.

     

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  33.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Re:

    I'd rather spend the extra 5 minutes and make it from scratch, even if I do like the box stuff.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 5:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: AC who is confused...Trademark not Health Care

    Mine was a very general comment meant to avoid the recital of statutory "scripture" as contained in Para. (2) above.

    I originally honed in on the term "commerce" only because the article here makes the declarative statement that ..."there's no use in commerce". I can easily envision circumstances where this may be true, but this does not appear to be one of them.

    Again, however, my comments have been directed to US law since there are likely variations contained in Canadian law.

     

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  35.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 7:28pm

    Re: Retitling the class

    Yeah, call it “Krapt”!

     

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  36.  
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    chris, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 9:45pm

    Re: Re:

    Loser pays is also a key part of my idea since that is pretty standard anyway.

     

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  37.  
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    Vincent Clement (profile), Apr 26th, 2011 @ 11:19am

    The KD trademark is for the following wares:

    (1) Macaroni and cheese.
    (2) Pasta and pasta sauces.

    So long as Mr. Clapson doesn't use macaroni and cheese, and pasta and pasta sauces in his class, he should be good to go.

    Bad PR move on the part of Kraft.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Jane, Apr 26th, 2011 @ 11:41am

    Re: Anonymous Coward'

    I worked at a newspaper for many years and, as a matter of fact, they DO pay people to scour the internet and newspapers looking for such things. We got a really nasty letter once back in the early '90s because we used the word "Velcro" in a story when we should have used "hook and loop fastener" -- what the reporter mentioned wasn't really "Velcro," it was some kind of generic. I thought it was funny, but they were serious!

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    lubos, Apr 26th, 2011 @ 1:29pm

    Re:

    This reminds me of the Simpsons rerun last night. Ken Brockman said some curse word on air, but nobody noticed since folks were no longer watching his news show. Well that is until it got reported on by Flanders, who as it turns out, spends every evening going through various obscure TV channels and magazines looking for immoral behavior. Pretty funny stuff - and obviously true...

     

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  40.  
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    Drew (profile), Apr 27th, 2011 @ 1:00am

    Re:

    A good question I have here is that Mr. Clapson is not selling 'Macaroni and chesse' or 'Past and pasta sauces' but cooking techniques. So even if he included how to cook pasta in his free classes how would that violate the KD trademark?

     

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  41.  
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    wvhillbilly (profile), May 1st, 2011 @ 9:49pm

    Kick the KD

    Shades of Monster Cable suing Disney for Monsters, Inc. and anyone else using the word "Monster" in any kind of a commercial context, even a mom and pop clothing store that used the word "Monster" in its name. Makes me wonder if they'll sue Linux developers over the KDE desktop manager.
    Suing your potential customers is no way to build goodwill.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    wvhillbilly (profile), May 1st, 2011 @ 10:10pm

    Re: Home cooking is killing the restaurant industry

    Consider the implications if everybody could just cook their own food: Nobody would go to restaurants and pay for their meals any more. All the restaurants would go out of business, with millions of people going into unemployment and billions of dollars that would have been used at restaurants disappearing from the economy. With no restaurants there would be no education of new chefs, and after some time nobody would know how to cook, and all of humanity would starve to extinction!


    Uh-oh! There's that old slippery slope fallacy again.
    Most people I know cook at home, and also go out for occasional meals at restaurants too.

    Besides, why would Kraft care? Mac and cheese is pretty much a cook-at-home item, so it seems to me cook-at-home would mean more business for Kraft.

    Well here we go again. Another silly lawsuit over trivia. I think the real problem is we have too many lawyers with not enough to do, so they must file these silly lawsuits for recreation. (A bit of sarcasm here.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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