Purina sued by Hormel over black label bacon dog treats

Hormel believes that Purina’s brand could be confused with Hormel’s or that consumers may infer that Hormel was somehow involved.

Tim Wall Headshot Small Headshot
product image from Amazon.com
product image from Amazon.com

Beggin’ Strips advertisements claimed dogs don’t know it’s not bacon, but pork product producer Hormel is more concerned that humans may make the same mistake. On May 23, Hormel filed a lawsuit against Nestle Purina Petcare in the United States District Court of Minnesota, which alleged that Beggin’ Strips infringed on Hormel’s “Black Label” trademark.

Allegations made by Hormel against Purina

Earlier this year, Purina released a style of Beggin’ Strips marketed as “Black Label” and as containing “real pork” as the first ingredient. Hormel has been using the black label designation since the mid-60s and believes that Purina’s brand could be confused with Hormel’s or that consumers may infer that Hormel was somehow involved with the dog treat.

“Hormel Foods has used its BLACK LABEL mark in connection with bacon for more than 50 years, promotes the BLACK LABEL bacon brand very actively, and owns long established rights for the mark,” a Hormel representative told Petfood Industry. “Because our brands and trademarks represent a standard of quality and value to our consumers, customers, and shareholders, willful unauthorized use of our BLACK LABEL mark is taken very seriously, and we will protect our brand vigorously.”

Beggin Strips Google Ad

In the dog treat label lawsuit, Hormel claims that they informed Purina about their belief that the black label dog treats were infringing upon Hormel’s copyright in a January 6 letter, but that Purina continued to market bacon-shaped, “real meat” dog treats with black label wording.

Hormel alleged that Purina bought keyword search advertisements that caused ads for Beggin’ Strips to appear alongside Hormel’s products when a person searches in Google for “black label bacon (shown at right).

Hormel’s lawyers claimed that Purina intentionally used the black label wording while fully aware that Hormel trademarked the words, with intent to utilize customer’s goodwill toward Hormel’s Black Label brand. As evidence of that foreknowledge, the lawsuit noted an advertisement for Beggin’ Strips that featured footage of Hormel’s Black Label bacon along with other bacon brands in a meat aisle of a grocery store. That advertisement was posted to YouTube in 2012, several years before Purina launched the black label Beggin’ Strips.

Purina did not respond to a request for comment on this lawsuit.

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