GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) – Sauer Brands, the owner of the Duke’s mayonnaise trademark, has filed a lawsuit against Greenville-based Duke Foods claiming trade infringement.
The 125-page lawsuit was filed Friday in Charlotte, NC.
Sauer manufactures and markets Duke’s mayonnaise, but Duke Foods makes and sells other mayonnaise-based products, such as pimento cheese and chicken salad. A spokesman for Duke Foods said the company is the largest producer of pimento cheese in the country.
The lawsuit claims, among other things, that Duke Foods is using a "look-alike" logo on their mayonnaise-based spreads, which are sold in grocery stores through the South. The lawsuit claims the product logo, adopted by Duke Foods in 2018, is being used to "confuse consumers into believing" both brands are connected.
Sauer's lawsuit says the logo in question uses a "similar cursive script to the font" used on Duke's mayonnaise products, along with the "overall color scheme" and the "Since 1917" tagline.
A spokesman for Sauer said the C.F. Sauer Company, based in Richmond, Virginia, purchased the Duke’s mayonnaise brand and recipe from Eugenia Duke, who invented Duke’s mayonnaise in 1917, in 1929. The name of the company was changed to Sauer Brands earlier in 2019 after a new owner purchased a majority interest in the company.
The lawsuit claims the similarity between the two current brand logos are "likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception, in that customers and potential customers are likely to believe there is sponsorship, approval, licensing, affiliation, association, or some legitimate connection between the goods."
The logo is different than the one Duke Foods uses at its Greenville-area sandwich shops.
The spokesman for Sauer said it had been the company’s desire to reach an amicable agreement with Duke Foods.
A spokesman for Duke Foods, however, said the company plans to fight to keep their name and brand.
Duke Foods claims their company and Duke’s mayonnaise “have a shared history in pioneer entrepreneur Eugenia Duke, who sold both businesses in the 1920s” and argues that both brands had co-existed for nearly a century without issue until Sauer came under new ownership.
Below is the full statement from Sauer Brands:
Sauer Brands is the sole owner of the Duke’s brand, trademarks, logos and trade names used on Duke’s mayonnaise and the full line of Duke’s products. As the steward of this iconic and beloved brand, it is our responsibility to ensure that loyal Duke’s customers receive the unmatched quality and flavor they have come to expect in the 90 years since we purchased the Duke’s brand from Eugenia Duke in 1929. While it had been our desire to reach an amicable resolution, we will take all necessary steps to protect the interests of our customers and preserve the integrity of the Duke’s brand.
Below is the Duke Foods’ full statement:
The name “Duke” is more than the name of our company and its products, it is our history and our people. Duke Brands and Duke Foods employs more than 300 people in South Carolina, North Carolina and the Caribbean. In 2017, we opened our corporate headquarters on Main Street in Greenville, S.C., where Eugenia Duke began selling her famous sandwiches made with her pimento cheese, chicken salad and egg salad recipe to drug stores, textile mills, and soldiers fighting in World War I.
Duke Brands and Duke Foods has been owned and operated by the Smart family for three generations. Leading back to the current CEO Andrew Smart’s great uncle Alan Hart, who came back from World War I and became Eugenia Duke’s bookkeeper. Since that time, the Smart family has been the custodians of Eugenia’s historic and iconic original sandwich and salad recipes. Allowing people throughout the country to experience and enjoy how a woman with humble beginnings could create such a staple of products that have become a southern tradition, when she didn’t even have the right to vote.
That is why we were blindsided Friday evening when Falfurrias Capital Partners, the new private equity owners of the company manufacturing Duke’s Mayonnaise, filed suit against us in federal court in North Carolina demanding we no longer use the name Duke.
Our company and Duke’s Mayonnaise have a shared history in pioneer entrepreneur Eugenia Duke, who sold both businesses in the 1920s. Both of our companies and their respective brands have coexisted until the recent sale of the C.F. Sauer Company, which was the long-time parent company of Duke’s Mayonnaise, this summer to Falfurrias Capital Partners.
We plan to fight to keep our name and our brand.