Cases & Deals

J.M. Smucker wins summary judgment in trademark infringement case over pet treats

Clients J.M. Smucker Company, The

Jones Day client The J.M. Smucker Company, and its subsidiary Big Heart Pet, Inc., obtained summary judgment over claims for trademark infringement and unfair competition in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Plaintiffs Mars, Incorporated and Mars Petcare US, Inc., asserted that Smucker's use of the term "pill pouches" for its MILK-BONE brand Pill Pouches dog treats infringes Mars's registered trademark Pill Pockets, which it uses for its GREENIES brand Pill Pockets pet treats. Both products are designed for pet owners to hide medicine to give their pets. In granting Smucker's summary judgment motion, Judge Claude Hilton found that Mars failed to submit any evidence that there is any likelihood of confusion in the marketplace. He found that the parties' respective marks and advertising on the product packaging and advertising are dissimilar. More importantly, while Smucker submitted survey evidence demonstrating a 0.0% rate of actual confusion among consumers, Mars did not present any survey evidence supporting a likelihood of confusion. Additionally, Judge Hilton found that Smucker's use of the term "pill pouches" is a fair use of the term as a non-trademark description of its product's design, purpose, and characteristics. Thus, Mars's claims all failed as a matter of law and Smucker was entitled to summary judgment on them.

Mars, Inc. v. The J.M. Smucker Co., Case No. 1:16-cv-01451-CMH-MSN (E.D. Va.)