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:
“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.