Last month, gluten intolerance advocacy group Gluten Intolerance Group (“GIG”) sued celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for trademark infringement and unfair business practices under the Lanham Act and state consumer protection laws in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. According to the complaint, GIG is an independent organization that certifies food producers as gluten free, and owns a family of U.S. and international trademarks that it uses to demark qualifying products as gluten free within the group’s standards.
GIG claims that the British chef, his company Jamie Oliver Enterprises Ltd., and his advocacy group, the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation Inc. are infringing one of these trademarks—namely, the letters “GF” surrounded by a circle and the words “Certified Gluten Free.” By affixing the mark to certain Jamie Oliver products, GIG alleges Oliver has confused consumers as to whether GIG has certified those foods as gluten free and has harmed the group’s reputation as an independent gluten free certifier. Oliver has yet to respond to the suit.
Takeaway: Many popular food labels, such as “Certified Gluten Free,” “Paleo,” and “Certified Vegan” are in fact federally registered trademarks owned by food advocacy groups. Advertisers should investigate any certification requirements by the owners of such labelling trademarks to avoid potential infringement or false association suits.