Barefoot Contessa Suing California Company Over Unauthorized “Contessa Chef Inspired” Frozen Dinners

Having a famous brand might sound pretty awesome, but with a name everyone recognizes comes the hassle of trying to protect that name from others out there trying to make a buck off it. Food Network host Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, is preparing to do battle to keep her brand her own, suing a California company for selling what she calls unauthorized look-alikes of her frozen dinners.

Garten’s Barefoot Contessa frozen dinners were produced by a third-party manufacturer called Contessa Premium Foods in Pennsylvania until last spring, when that company went out of business, reports Newsday.

California-based OFI Foods then bought CPF — which Garten had no ownership in, her company says in a press release — but the lawsuit says it didn’t purchase the licensing rights for the Barefoot Contessa brand. OFI apparently tried to become a licensee but was turned down, due to lack of experience in the frozen-food business beyond seafood, the suit says.

Garten filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan yesterday, after saying the company refused to stop selling the dinners, dubbed Contessa Chef Inspired and featuring very similar packaging. There’s just a different chef person on the front, but other than that, it’s pretty close:

(via Newsday)

(via Newsday)

“The vast majority of which are the same dinners using the same recipes as the dinners previously manufactured under the terminated license,” the lawsuit says.

Customers brought the issue to Garten’s company’s attention, saying that “they incorrectly believed” that the copycat meals “are Barefoot Contessa products,” a news release from her company said.

“The continued production of products bearing the name ‘Contessa Chef Inspired’ and sold in a way that is virtually identical to ‘Barefoot Contessa’ dinners, represents clear infringement of our intellectual property rights,” the release adds.

The lawsuit’s goal is to stop the sales of the dinners and seeks damages for Garten, including any profits from the unauthorized sales.

LI’s Barefoot Contessa sues California company over unauthorized frozen dinners [Newsday]

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  1. BikerGeek79 says:

    What I find interesting is that the company is using the same recipe as well as very similar packaging.

    Consumers who think they’re buying Barefoot Contessa™ products actually ARE buying those products. It’s just the company that makes and sells them isn’t allowed to do so anymore, because they cut Ina Garten out of the picture.

    It’d be like if I started a Subway franchise, but then lost the franchise rights but kept selling the same sandwiches with the same ingredients, only I changed the sign a little bit. People would come into my shop thinking it was a Subway, order a Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki and they’d get one. The only difference is that I’m not paying Subway franchise fees.

    So, I wonder if Barefoot Contessa is also including trade secret recipes as part of their suit?

    Also, as an aside, the linked article has a ridiculous “fill out a survey or login to read content” wall. Don’t link to sites like that.