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Report on Business Kitchen parties and a ‘happy spoon’ foil Loblaw’s attempt to block Pampered Chef’s use of PC logo

A judge ruled against a trademark lawsuit by Loblaw, in which it challenged the approval of The Pampered Chef’s short-form ‘PC’ versions of its logo.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Kitchenware brand The Pampered Chef can continue to use its “PC” logo to sell products in Canada, a judge ruled this week, dismissing a trademark lawsuit by Loblaw Cos. Ltd.

Loblaw challenged the approval of Pampered Chef’s Canadian trademark applications for short-form “PC” versions of its logo, which it has used in its sales operations in Canada, as well as in the name of its loyalty program, “PC Dollars.” Loblaws has registered PC as both a trademarked word and a logo in relation to its President’s Choice food and kitchenware products, a loyalty program, mobile apps and cooking-school services.

The Canadian retailer argued The Pampered Chef had violated its exclusive rights to the PC mark in Canada; that it might cause confusion with Loblaw’s brands; and that it could “depreciate the value of the goodwill associated” with Loblaw’s marks.

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The decision turned mainly on the difference in the two companies “trade channels,” which diminishes the likelihood of consumer confusion even though the products and customer bases are similar.

Loblaw has sold kitchenware products since the 1980s, and has registered its PC mark for both food and kitchenware. Addison, Ill.-based The Pampered Chef also sells housewares including kitchen products, like serving bowls and utensils, but does so through multilevel marketing – such as parties hosted in sellers’ homes – and to a lesser extent online, not through primarily in retail stores as Loblaw does. The Pampered Chef’s website is also targeted toward people selling its products and loyal customers, as opposed to the general public.

The decision further said that the marks are not identical: Pampered Chef’s logo design includes what it calls a “happy spoon” image between the letters P and C. And the Pampered Chef’s website and marketing materials prominently display the full brand name, so consumers seeing the “PC” logo are unlikely to be confused, the judge wrote.

In addition to Loblaw’s claim, the judge also dismissed a counterclaim by The Pampered Chef seeking to have Loblaw’s trademarks “declared invalid" because they “are not distinctive of Loblaw.” It used the example of Ventura, a company selling bulk condiments such as ketchup and tartar sauce, which uses a logo that arguably resembles the letters “PC,” without any challenge from Loblaw. Loblaw countered that Ventura sells mostly to food-service vendors, not retail consumers. The judge concluded that the PC mark is distinctive.

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