U.S. District Court in Utah decided an interesting case involving whether an advertiser can use the word “local” in Bimbo Bakeries USA, Inc. v. Leland Sycamore et al. Defendant Leland Sycamore had invented the trade secret process and formula for making “Grandma Sycamore’s Home-Maid Bread.” After securing trademark registration for the bread packaging design, Leland sold Grandma Sycamore’s and its related intellectual property rights to Plaintiff Bimbo Bakeries. Bimbo then sued Sycamore’s son, his company, and related entities for trade secrets misappropriation, trade dress infringement, trade dress dilution, false designation of origin, false advertising, and unfair competition.
One defendant, U.S. Bakery, the entity that purchased the allegedly misappropriated breadmaking process, moved for summary judgment on all of Bimbo’s claims. The court denied U.S. Bakery summary judgment on all claims except that for trade dress infringement. As to the false advertising claim for U.S. Bakery’s “Fresh. Local. Quality.” tagline, the court observed that “[b]ecause the term local does not carry a set definition, whether the term is false or misleading is a question appropriate for the fact finder. Summary judgment is denied because whether “local” is misleading is a factual question.”
Takeaway: Advertisers who wish to use the word “local” in connection with their products’ source of origin should be cautious, as this court determined that such a word is a verifiable statement of fact, as opposed to non-actionable puffery.