It's Cheryl vs. Cheryl in U.S. District Court.
Westerville-based Cheryl and Co. is suing its founder and former owner, Cheryl Krueger, over Krueger's latest cookie venture, C. Krueger's.
In 2005, 1-800-Flowers bought Cheryl and Co. from Krueger for $40 million. The company remained in central Ohio and today sells more than 51 million cookies a year through its retail stores, gift business and website, according to court filings.
Earlier this year, Krueger opened a C. Krueger's store in the Short North and launched a website where her new venture sells packaged cookies.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed last month in federal court in Columbus, C. Krueger's cookies, packaging, frosting swirl and other marks bear more than a passing resemblance to Cheryl and Co.'s products. The cookie giant accuses Krueger of using the same recipes and similar trademarks on its "lookalike cookies." The company also claims Krueger hired away several of its executives in violation of noncompete and confidentiality agreements.
"Through this lawsuit, Cheryl’s is seeking to protect its important intellectual property and business relationships so that Cheryl’s can compete fairly in the marketplace," the company said in the suit, "instead of having to compete against former employees who are plotting to steal Cheryl’s customers, vendors, intellectual property, confidential and trade secret information, and key employees."
C. Krueger's denies any wrongdoing or infringements.
"We're disappointed in their course of action. We find their claims without merit," said Bill Martin, vice president at C. Krueger's. "We will let the proper channels resolve the issue."
Krueger left Cheryl and Co. in 2009, but the company maintains in the lawsuit that its agreement with her permanently bars her from using its recipes, techniques and other trade secrets. Cheryl and Co. also named T. David Adell, Amy Coley, Cindy Dalton and Elisabeth Allwein as defendants. The four were executives at Cheryl and Co. in charge of production, purchasing, sales and product development respectively, but in the past year have left and joined C. Krueger's.
Cheryl and Co. claims each executive was barred from working at C. Krueger's.
The company is seeking a permanent injunction to stop C. Krueger from competing against it and to stop it from using what it says are its trade secrets. Cheryl's also wants C. Krueger to pay three times the profits realized from the sale of any product similar to its own.