Blizzard Causes Storm of Lawsuits

Advertising Law

In a battle over the term "Blizzard," Dairy Queen and W.B. Mason have filed competing lawsuits seeking control of the mark.

Dairy Queen promotes the Blizzard as a featured product that it originally launched in 1946 and reintroduced in 1985. The frozen and semi-frozen treats are sold at all of the more than 6,700 Dairy Queen restaurants around the world, generating billions of dollars in revenue for the company and making it well-known to consumers in the United States, according to Dairy Queen's Minnesota federal court complaint.

"As a result of Dairy Queen's long-standing use of Blizzard, and due to the extensive promotion and advertising of the Blizzard marks, they have become strongly associated in the minds of the U.S. and worldwide consuming public with frozen and semi-frozen treats emanating from Dairy Queen restaurants, and are symbols of premium, high-quality food products," the company told the court.

Because it has used the term for more than seven decades, Dairy Queen argued that W.B. Mason should not be permitted to use the term "Blizzard" for its spring water and paper. Dairy Queen's argument expressed concern that the company may expand its use to additional products.

Dairy Queen asked the court to permanently enjoin W.B. Mason from using the term Blizzard and, at its own expense, destroy all labels as well as all marketing, promotional, and advertising materials, and edit all websites and social media postings to remove the mark.

W.B. Mason fought back with its own complaint in Massachusetts federal court, requesting a declaration that its use of the term Blizzard did not infringe or dilute any marks owned by Dairy Queen.

"While W.B. Mason first began using the Blizzard mark in connection with paper products in 2003 and spring water in 2010, W.B. Mason is not aware of a single person who has ever been confused by its use of Blizzard," the company claimed. "Indeed, no reasonable person would ever mistakenly believe that copy paper or spring water sold by W.B. Mason and emblazoned with the W.B. Mason mark and logo emanates from, or is associated with, [Dairy Queen]. Similarly, W.B. Mason's use of Blizzard on copy paper or spring water that is sold and marketed under the W.B. Mason mark and logo has caused, and will cause, no dilution of [Dairy Queen's] Blizzard brand."

W.B. Mason also revealed that the companies were in the midst of active settlement discussions when Dairy Queen filed suit.

To read the complaint in American Dairy Queen Corporation v. W.B. Mason Co., Inc., click here.

To read the complaint in W.B. Mason Co., Inc. v. American Dairy Queen Corporation, click here.

Why it matters: With competing federal court complaints and apparently broken-down settlement talks, the battle over the term Blizzard appears to be a storm that won't die down soon.