"Trademark terrorism" has manifested itself in Salt Lake City. A local cookie company, My Dough Girl at 770 S. 300 West has received a cease-and-desist letter from General Mills, owner of Pillsbury's bake-at-home cookies, ordering it to change its name on pain of litigation because they think it infringes upon the Pillsbury Doughboy image. Worse yet, they've imposed a gag order on My Dough Girl's owner, Tami Cromar, instructing her not to talk to the media about it, although Cromar has a Facebook page up to mobilize prospective support. Media sources include a Salt Lake City Weekly article dated July 6th, 2010, as well as the Deseret News and KSL Channel 5; KSL news video embedded below:
Cromar, who started the company on an impulse and $10,000 in savings from 15 years as an architectural designer, first attracted Pillsbury's attention when she filed to trademark her product line. She now says she will comply with the corporation's demands, including no longer talking to the news media about it. She simply hasn't the resources to fight a $23 billion multinational leviathan. Cromar has now submitted two new names for trademark application, a process that takes at least six to nine months, or longer if someone complains that the application infringes on their trademark.
You can provide direct feedback to Pillsbury about this issue through this page.
Even though there's no direct copyright infringement here, a local attorney who deals in trademark law but who didn't want to be identified said Pillsbury likely feels justified in taking legal action because it is naturally very sensitive to anyone co-opting or confusing a 45-year reputation. The problem is that corporations are given special treatment; they're protected not only against copyright infringement, but also against what is called "dilution". Another Salt Lake City trademark attorney, Dickson Burton, told City Weekly that if a trademark is determined to be “famous,” it gets special protection. “You don’t even need to show a likelihood of confusion, only that you’re diluting the value of a famous trademark by using the trademark, even on unreleated goods,” Dickson says.
When asked by City Weekly for comment, a General Mills spokesperson said only, “We routinely do not comment on pending trademark matters.” Typical corporate dodge.