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Austin-based maker of SkinnyPop sues to block ‘skinny’ competitor


Highlights

Snyder’s-Lance allegedly wants to roll out a new offering that will be known as Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn.

Amplify Snack Brands Inc. alleges trademark infringement and unfair competition in its court filing.

The Austin-based company behind SkinnyPop popcorn is trying to keep a competitor from launching a similarly named product in the U.S.

In a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Austin, Amplify Snack Brands Inc. says a subsidiary of Charlotte, N.C.-based snack food giant Snyder’s-Lance is preparing to roll out a new offering here that, according to trademark applications, will be known as Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn.

That doesn’t sit well with Amplify executives, who say their company “has expended millions of dollars marketing and protecting the SkinnyPop mark from competitors.” Among other things, they’re seeking an injunction to keep Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn from hitting store shelves.

Amplify alleges trademark infringement and unfair competition in its court filing, which seeks three times actual damages, plus attorneys’ fees.

Amplify’s signature product, SkinnyPop debuted in 2010, offering a line of “better-for-you” popcorns with no artificial ingredients, artificial flavors and preservatives.

Today, SkinnyPop is sold in thousands of stores from coast to coast, including Albertsons, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.

Amplify says it sold 60 million bags of SkinnyPop in 2016, with a retail value of $200 million.

Amplify’s other offerings include Paqui tortilla chips, which the company acquired in 2015.

“We believe in fair play and fair competition,” Amplify CEO Tom Ennis said in a written statement. “Snyder’s-Lance and Metcalfe’s effort to copy our brand name is flattering but not how trade competitors should behave. … We look forward to defending our mark and securing a just result from the court.”

Snyder’s-Lance did not respond to messages from the American-Statesman seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Amplify says in its lawsuit that, in the past, it has “obtained judgments and stipulations against wouldbe imitators to prevent them from using ‘Skinny’ in connection with the sale or marketing of popcorn or popcorn-like products, including on the grounds that such use would confuse consumers.”

In one of those cases, Milwaukee grocery chain Roundy’s agreed to stop referring to its store-brand popcorn as “Skinny Popcorn” in 2013. Another grocery chain, Fairway Market, abandoned using the “Lite N’ Skinny” moniker for its popcorn products in 2015 after hearing from Amplify’s lawyers.

Allowing Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn to be sold would “constitute overt trademark infringement and a classic attempt to trade off of an established brand’s goodwill and value,” Amplify claims.

“By virtue of its strong brand and iconic Amplify Skinny marks, SkinnyPop is the most-trusted ready-to-eat popcorn brand,” the suit says. “The SkinnyPop popcorn enjoys the highest rate of repeat customers in the ready-to-eat popcorn category. SkinnyPop also enjoys the greatest overall customer satisfaction rating among all ready-to-eat popcorn brands.”

A trial date has not been set.



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