Trademark Attorney Morris Turek

Morris E. Turek

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Ridiculous Trademark Opposition of the Week – General Mills v. Greenliant

This week’s ridiculous trademark opposition deserves a giant “Ho! Ho! Ho!” for its absolute stupidity.  If you’ve ever eaten canned or frozen vegetable in your lifetime (perhaps under duress), you are undoubtedly familiar with the products sold by General Mills under the GREEN GIANT trademark.  Since at least as early as 1925, General Mills has been convincing Americans to purchase GREEN GIANT vegetables despite the fact that they are significantly more expensive than almost every other brand of vegetable on the supermarket shelf.  I guess it must be that sissy, toga-wearing version of the Incredible Hulk that appeals to a particular segment of the American public because there’s no discernible difference between GREEN GIANT canned peas and those sold at your local dollar store.

Not surprisingly, General Mills owns approximately 15 federal trademark registrations for the GREEN GIANT mark, all of which are for vegetables and related food items.  According to the Green Giant website, the name was first used with the introduction of an unusually large pea, but as we all know, use of the GREEN GIANT mark has expanded to include all kinds of vegetables and vegetable blends over the years.  It’s oldest registrations date back to 1952 and the GREEN GIANT trademark has been in continuous use for the past 85 years or so.

Now, on August 26, 2010, a company by the name of Greenliant LLC filed a trademark application seeking federal registration of the mark GREENLIANT for the following products:

Integrated circuits; integrated circuit modules sold as a component of electronic devices for secure data storage, wireless communication and Internet computing, and instruction manuals sold as a unit therewith; computer hardware and peripherals; semiconductors; flash microcontrollers; flash memory cards for digital cameras; remote controls for TVs, CD and DVD players, audio-video receivers, personal stereos, VCRs and stereo receivers and tuners; televisions; DVD players; CD players; audio-video receivers; personal stereos; stereo receivers and tuners; VCRs; cable television converters; semiconductor storage devices for storage and backup of electronic data; motherboards; cellular phones; microcontrollers; automotive entertainment and communication devices, namely, apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound and images; blank electronic storage media

Greenliant’s website describes itself as being “dedicated to developing energy-efficient, highly reliable and secure storage solutions for the embedded system, data center and mobile Internet markets.”  Although Greenliant filed its trademark application on an intent-to-use basis, it appears from the website that the GREENLIANT mark is already in use in connection with solid-state storage drives, flash memory, and NAND controllers.  Admittedly, I have no experience with Greenliant’s products, but I’m sure they’re very tasty indeed, especially with some cheese sauce drizzled over them.

What’s that?  You’re telling me that Greenliant’s products aren’t edible?  They aren’t grown on a farm?  They would likely kill you if ingested in mass quantities?  Well, it probably would have been helpful for someone to have explained to General Mills the differences between vegetables and computer memory prior to it filing an opposition against Greenliant’s application for GREENLIANT a few weeks ago.  That’s right, General Mills has opposed Greenliant’s application on the basis of likelihood of confusion and on the basis that it is likely to dilute the distinctive quality of the “famous” GREEN GIANT trademark.  One thing I find particularly amusing in the Notice of Opposition is that General Mills contends that, in addition to vegetables, it has used the GREEN GIANT mark in connection with USB flash drives and actually attached a photograph of a flash drive prominently displaying the GREEN GIANT trademark as shown below:

Of course, this USB flash drive is clearly nothing more than a fancy promotional item that advertises the GREENT GIANT food products produced by General Mills.  I mean, I could easily hire a company to print “” on flash drives as well, but that doesn’t mean I’m in the business of selling flash drives or that I have expanded my trademark rights to cover flash drives.  Rather, I am simply advertising my trademark legal services via the distribution of flash drives to potential clients.  Even so, I wonder if the Green Giant flash drive goes better with green beans or spinach.  Either way, it’s probably going to need a little salt.

So, what do you think?  Is this opposition a GIANT waste of time and money, or does General Mills have a case?  Drop a comment to let me know.

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