After over thirty years of peaceful coexistence, a cat fight has begun between Kellogg Company’s “Toney the Tiger” and Exxon Corporation’s “Whimsical Tiger.” Kellogg Company, a Battle Creek, Michigan-based breakfast cereal maker (“Kellogg”) wants Exxon Corporation the Irving, Texas-based global energy company (“Exxon”) to stop using Exxon’s “Whimsical Tiger” cartoon and turn over all promotional items that bear the “Whimsical Tiger” image. The Exxon Corporation uses the “Whimsical Tiger” with its slogan “Put a Tiger in Your Tank” and “Tony the Tiger” is Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes animated mascot.

On October 7, 1996 Kellogg filed a lawsuit against Exxon in federal court for the Western District of Tennessee for Exxon’s use of the “Whimsical Tiger” image alleged various claims of trademark infringement. Kellogg’s complaint included: federal trademark infringement; false designation of origin and false representation; and federal trademark dilution.

State claims included state unfair competition; palming off; and state trademark infringement and dilution. Kellogg also sought declaratory relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202, claiming the Exxon abandoned the “Whimsical Tiger” trademark.

In addition, Kellogg sought injunctive relief to prohibit Exxon from continued use of its cartoon tiger and requested that all Exxon items that bear the “Whimsical Tiger” image be delivered to Kellogg and destroyed.

Finally, Kellogg prayed for attorney’s fees and any other relief the court deemed appropriate.

This case note will address the facts of the case, the parties respective arguments, the court’s analysis, and finally it will conclude with a comment in light of the Kellogg v. Exxon decision.

This article from the DePaul Journal of Art, Technology & Intellectual Property Law directly relates to the case of Kellogg Company vs Exxon Corporation which was a case brought to the Supreme Court of the American legal system.

The by-line to this article has a lot to say about the identity of the animated image, the Intellectual Property rights and the potential to rake in millions of Pounds or Dollars with the right branding.

This case came to the forefront in 1998. Over a 30 year period both of these companies used a tiger to promote their products and brand.

In the case of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger has been used to sell Frosties (Breakfast Cereals) since they were first sold in 1952.

Exxon Corporation who is a provider of Oil and Gas. They had an advertising campaign going back to 1959 which used a tiger which had the slogan ‘Put a Tiger in Your Tank’. To encourage people to fill up with their own fuel at the time it was when people started to get a family car.

In 1968 Kellogg’s requested that Exxon did not oppose the use of the trademark in Germany and that was fine. In 1972 Exxon used tigers to reinforce their Exxon brand over their Esso brand but the legal argument can to fruition in the 1990’s.

The court rely found in favour of Exxon and the interesting thing is today is that the catchphrase of ‘Put a Tiger in Your Tank’ has been dropped. This highlight the importance of protecting the animation may it be a character or a series of characters because you do not know how long the success will continue because you need to protect the image and the revenue.

 

Parrino, J. (1998) Kellogg Company v. Exxon Corporation: Was Kellogg Sleeping on Its Trademark Rights? Available at: http://via.library.depaul.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1308&context=jatip (Accessed: 14 February 2017).

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