Princeton Vanguard, maker of Pretzel Crisps brand flattened pretzel snacks, has had their trademark challenged by snack food giant Frito-Lay
, which claims the mark is too generic to sustain a trademark registration.
It’s a trademark brand name dispute with a “small innovator” vs. “corporate giant” twist.
Pretzel Crisps have been reported to be the 6th most important player in the pretzel snack market (although they are also often classified as a cracker). Frito-Lay has tried to market its own versions of flat, crisp pretzels with Rold Gold Pretzel Chips and Rold Gold Pretzel Waves, but neither product is still being sold so we can assume they met with limited success. And now it has moved to challenge Vanguard’s trademark registration.
The problem is that Vanguard’s trademark is actually worryingly weak. The product is literally a crisp, flattened pretzel, and the name is “Pretzel Crisp.” Trademarks are rated according to how directly their name corresponds to their product. “Merely descriptive” trademarks are weak, while “arbitrary” or “fanciful” marks are the strongest. Generic marks, which are the generic term for the product type, cannot be trademarked at all. Because Pretzel Crisp describes the product so well, it is probably a descriptive mark.
Luckily for Princeton Vanguard, even if the mark is cancelled by the court for lack of secondary meaning, they could still market their product.
The dispute is still pending with the trademark office’s trial board.