PORTLAND, ORE. — Bob’s Red Mill on May 31 sued the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America in a U.S. district court in Portland. Bob’s Red Mill seeks to continue using its gluten-free symbol without having to seek permission from, or pay money to, the Gluten Intolerance Group.
“At a minimum, complying with G.I.G.’s demand would require a significant redesign and marketing process,” Bob’s Red Mill, Milwaukie, Ore., said in court documents. “Either way, the potential damages exceed $75,000.”
Bob’s Red Mill on its products uses a gluten-free circle symbol with “GF” in larger letters in the middle, “GLUTEN” in smaller letters above the “GF” and “FREE” in smaller letters below, all contained within the circle. The Gluten Intolerance Group uses a symbol with “GF” in a circle, “Certified” in smaller letters above the circle and “Gluten-Free” in smaller letters below the circle.
Bob’s Red Mill, which has never claimed gluten-free certification by any outside organization, in court documents said on May 17 it received an e-mail from the Gluten Intolerance Group, Auburn, Wash. The e-mail asked the company to quit using the company’s logo, saying it was similar to the Gluten Intolerance Group’s logo and that it may confuse consumers into thinking the Gluten Intolerance Group had certified the Bob’s Red Mill products, which it had not. The e-mail stated the Gluten Intolerance Group has used its mark consistently in commerce since 2005.
The lawsuit claims the Gluten Intolerance Group on Feb. 13 abandoned its application to register its gluten-free mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The lawsuit asked the court to declare that the Gluten Intolerance Group’s gluten-free mark is unenforceable and merely descriptive.
A representative from the Gluten Intolerance Group said the organization had no comment on the lawsuit.
Bob’s Red Mill adheres to a gluten-free standard of 19 parts per million, which means a product may not have more than 19 parts of gluten per million. The Food and Drug Administration’s gluten-free standard is 20 parts per million. Bob’s Red Mill, founded in 1978, offers gluten-free milled grain products as well as organic-certified milled grain products globally. The company has more than 100 gluten-free products, including flour, cereal, oats, baking mixes and grains.
The Gluten Intolerance Group, founded in 1974, provides consumer support, advocacy and education to the gluten-free community. The Gluten-Free Certification Organization, a program within the Gluten Intolerance Group, verifies gluten-free products and has certified more than 30,000 products in 29 different countries.