Weight Watchers, Nestle in dispute over trademarks

by Eric Schroeder
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NEW YORK — Weight Watchers International Inc. (W.I.I.) has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Nestle U.S.A. over a dispute that Glendale, Calif.-based Nestle is infringing on Weight Watchers’ trademarks.

According to Weight Watchers, Nestle and its Dreyer’s ice cream unit’s Skinny Cow brand have been improperly displaying the Weight Watchers trademark on web sites and packaging of diet frozen foods and desserts. The products also infringe Weight Watchers’ "points" weight-loss system registered trademark, according to the Sept. 16 complaint.

"Upon information and belief, Nestle’s Lean Cuisine and Skinny Cow brands are intended to target directly weight- and health-conscious consumers — precisely the individuals who follow W.W.I.’s ‘points’ system and who purchase products that are sold under the Weight Watchers brand and/or that feature the Weight Watchers and ‘points’ trademarks, including frozen entrees and frozen desserts sold by the exclusive licensee of the Weight Watchers and ‘points’ trademarks in the frozen entrée product category, the H.J. Heinz Co., and frozen novelties sold by the exclusive licensee of the Weight Watchers and ‘points’ trademarks in the frozen novelties product category, Wells’ Dairy, Inc.," Weight Watchers said in its filing.

Weight Watchers said Nestle’s actions are "intended to take unfair advantage of W.W.I.’s established reputation in the field of weight control in order to market the Lean Cuisine and Skinny Cow brands and their products more successfully to consumers interested in weight loss and maintenance."

Nestle U.S.A.’s parent, Nestle S.A., is also the parent company of Jenny Craig, Inc., one of Weight Watchers major competitors in the weight-loss industry.

Weight Watchers is seeking unspecified damages and a court order blocking the infringement.

For its part, Nestle on its Lean Cuisine web site has the following disclaimer on its main page: "Weight Watchers and Points are registered trademarks of Weight Watchers International, Inc. The number of Points provided here was calculated by Nestle based on published Weight Watchers International, Inc., information and does not imply sponsorship or endorsement of such number of Points or Lean Cuisine products by Weight Watchers International, Inc."

Weight Watchers said the disclaimer is in "small unnoticeable (pale gray on white) print, hidden at the bottom of the web site page, and visually remote from the infringing uses of the Weight Watchers and points trademarks."

An e-mail seeking comment from Nestle was unreturned.

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