After a jury found a likelihood of confusion in a case involving the trademark GRANDMA SYCAMORE'S HOME MAID BREAD, U.S. District Court Judge Dale A. Kimball doubled the jury's damages award to $4.6M.
Leland Sycamore, the Utah entrepreneur who originally created Grandma Sycamore’s Home Maid Bread, was ordered to pay the hefty damages to the company to whom he sold the name in 1998.
The Court ruled that the damages awarded to the plaintiff by the jury were inadequate given the lost sales and damage to the goodwill of the plaintiff. The Court also noted there was evidence of willfulness, as the defendant had apparently joked about ignoring the plaintiff's cease and desist letters.
In 1998, the Defendant had sold the Grandma Sycamore’s trademark, business goodwill and trade secrets to Metz Baking Company, which was later acquired by the Sara Lee Corporation.
Leland subsequently started the Sycamore Family Bakery and began marketing a variety of breads identical to those marketed under the Grandma Sycamore’s brand.
As part of the deal, Sycamore was given an exclusive license to use the Grandma Sycamore trademark in a limited number of areas outside Utah, only if given written approval from Metz.
A decade later in 2008, Sara Lee sent Leland a letter demanding that he refrain from using "Sycamore" or any other component of the trademark for any bread or bakery products, but Sara Lee received no response to that or three subsequent demand letters.
The Court noted that, on the defendant's bread packages, the name "Sycamore Family Bakery, Inc." was repeated 24 times above an image of a teddy bear holding hearts — similar to the hearts incorporated in the Grandma Sycamore’s packaging. The new business also marketed the bread as the "original granny bread" and "original version" of Grandma Sycamore’s.
Judge Kimball had granted the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction in October 2009. The judge had found that instances of actual confusion among both consumers and food distributors constituted persuasive evidence that consumers would likely believe that the "Sycamore family" was making both bread products, and that the defendants deliberately adopted the similar trademark to unlawfully benefit from its reputation.