The legal action follows Cracker Barrel plans, announced last year, to market a range of products in supermarkets through a venture with Smithfield Foods.
In a filing at the District Court of Northern Illinois, Kraft said it had been producing and selling Cracker Barrel cheese in the US since 1954. The food giant said the only Cracker Barrel branded products offered at grocery stores have come exclusively from Kraft or have been licenced by Kraft and not from the restaurant chain.
Cracker Barrel has sold products through its own website. Kraft said it had not taken legal action until now because the chain had “maintained a distance” with respect to goods sold and channels of trade used.
Kraft wants the agreement with Smithfield declared void because it violates its rights to the Cracker Barrel brand.
It said the chain’s recent licencing agreement with Smithfield to sell foods including “assorted lunch meats, glazes, jerky and summer sausage” could give the products a much broader audience at supermarket and big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores and cause “significant confusion” among consumers.
Kraft said its actions “threaten to destroy the substantial goodwill that Kraft has created” in its Cracker Barrel trademark.
“Due to the public acceptance, fame and great recognition of the Cracker Barrel mark, the mark has come to represent an enormous amount of goodwill for Kraft,” the company said in the filing.
“The parties’ market separation that has existed for decades will be eliminated,” Kraft said.
Neither Kraft nor Cracker Barrel returned a request for comment at the time of going to press.