- Posted on: Dec 15 2020
Land O’Lawsuit: Dairy Enterprise Sued for Breach of Contract
With the holiday season upon us and winter quickly approaching, people are trading in lighter dishes for heavier, heartier meals. At the center of these dishes are butter and cream, and at the center of a new lawsuit is a producer of butter and cream: Land O’Lakes.1 On November 5, 2020, WWF Operating Company, LLC (WWF) filed a breach of contract complaint against the dairy mogul in the District Court of Colorado.2
The alleged breach of contract is over an agreement between the two entities for exclusive trademark licensing rights.
The complaint alleges that Land O’Lakes owns the disputed mark, LAND O’LAKES, “and related and other trademarks,” but provided exclusive, perpetual rights to WWF.3Specifically, the exclusive rights were granted to WWF for “cream products in refrigerated form.”4
The licensing agreement has an intricate history. The agreement granting WWF the exclusive and perpetual trademark rights was executed in 2013. However, a previous licensing agreement exists in which Land O’Lakes granted the rights to WWF and “WWF’s former owner, Dean Foods Company.” This agreement was executed eleven years prior in 2002.5
In 2013, WWF became its own entity, separate from Dean Foods.6Because of this separation, Land O’Lakes formed two separate agreements with Dean Foods and WWF, respectively. In the 2013 agreement with WWF, Land O’Lakes provided the same trademark rights to WWF as the 2002 agreement, but with the provision that WWF’s license to use the mark will co-exist with Dean Foods’ license.7 Dean Foods only had the authority to allow a subsidiary to use the license.
In May of this year, Dean Foods and Land O’Lakes ended their 2013 licensing agreement, but the licensing agreement between Land O’Lakes and WWF remained intact.8 However, WWF’s complaint alleges that upon ending the Dean Foods licensing agreement, Land O’Lakes entered into licensing agreements regarding the same marks with Dean Fluid, LLC and Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc. Dean Fluid, LLC is an affiliate of Dean Foods but not a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dean Foods, which would have been a permissible transfer of licensing.
Because of the subsequent licensing agreements with Dean Fluid, LLC and Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc., WWF is alleging Land O’Lakes breached its contract for providing exclusive trademark use, with the exception of Dean Foods’ use of the marks. WWF is asking the court to rule in its favor by enjoining Land O’Lakes from continuing the alleged breach and declare exclusive trademark rights for WWF9. Additionally, WWF seeks compensatory damages and reasonable attorney’s fees. Land O’Lakes has not yet filed an answer or commented publicly.
- Complaint at 1-2, WWF Operating Co., v. Land O’Lakes, Inc., No. 1:20-cv-03310 (D. Co. Nov. 5, 2020).
- Id at 1.
- Id at 3.
- Id at 5.
- Id at 10.
Posted in: Intellectual Property - Trademarks