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Long Trail Ail

Brewer faces off against cereal biz

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On July 31, lawyers for the Long Trail Brewing Company of Bridgewater Corners told Bear Naked, Inc., a Connecticut-based granola company, to “take a hike.”

In a filing available at Burlington’s United States District Court, Long Trail accuses the cereal brand, now owned by the Kellogg Company, of “trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.”

What did the crunchy folks do wrong? For one thing, their packaging used the slogan “take a hike,” which was part of a logo trademarked by LTBC in November 1996. The same logo, which LTBC has been putting on its raisin- and- peanut-based trail mix since 2005, also features “an image of a person hiking while wearing a backpack and carrying a walking stick or hiking pole.”

Believe it or not, in 2007 Bear Naked began to market its own trail mix — with cashews, dried cherries and oats — in packaging that included both the “take a hike” catchphrase and a picture of a mountaineer “wearing a backpack and carrying a walking stick.”

In February, the brewery sent Bear Naked a cease-and-desist order. A month later, Kellogg responded by email to say “the company would send a full response.” It never did.

“Bear Naked’s acts are calculated . . . and are likely to cause confusion or mistake and deceive consumers,” the filing continues. In addition to retaining the exclusive use of its slogan and the hiker logo, LTBC is seeking significant financial compensation, including all of Bear Naked’s profits from the offending trail mix, plus damages and legal fees. And the brewery is asking that all packaging bearing its “registered mark” be destroyed.

A representative from Long Trail declined to comment, Bear Naked was unable to as of press time. It does, however, appear that Bear Naked has revamped its packaging. The hiker logo and phrase are nowhere to be found on the company’s website. An item in its online FAQ reads: “The packaging is different, has the product changed?” The response: “No need to worry, our product has not changed . . . we have, however, evolved our packaging to a new look that we hope you will love as much as we do.” Nice spin.

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