The Case Against Crunchberries Continues

Categories: Law & Order
Last year, SF Weekly reported on the legal travails of one Roy Werbel, an East Bay man who filed a pair of class-action suits in San Francisco Federal court. His claim: The deceiving monikers of Froot Loops and Crunchberries cereals had, for years, bamboozled him into believing the breakfast foods contained some, nutritious fruit content. They don't. And he sued.

It turns out Werbel's in for the legal long haul. Sacramento lawyer Jeff Kravitz called in attorneys Hal Hewell of San Diego and Vail, Colo. lawyer Howard Rubinstein, who are more experienced handling class action suits. And while the Froot Loops suit was dismissed -- Werbel's side never served the Froot Loops people with legal papers, but may in the future -- the case against Crunchberries continues.

Hewell told SF Weekly that PepsiCo, the corporate parent of Quaker Oats, was served earlier this month.  

Hewell said that quite a bit of the Internet firestorm Werbel's cereal litigation induced was based on a faulty premise. It isn't that his client thought a crunchberry was an actual berry -- that'd be ridiculous! -- it's that he thought it wasn't an amalgamation of dyes, chemicals, and other crap with no nutritional value.

"The complaint states that the use of the name 'crunchberries,' and with the depiction of fruit on the box, and advertising with different colored berries, ... the impression was conveyed that it had some nutritional fruit content," he said. "It's actually virtuallly nil."

Hewell handled a similar case in Sacramento last year in which a judge emphatically ruled that a "reasonable consumer" would figure out what a crunchberry is -- and that there is no such thing as a crunchberry bush.  

Fair enough -- but this time, Hewell says he's got a secret weapon: the original trademark application for the cereal in which the examiner felt the name could lead to confusion among consumers.

Whether that line of attack stays crunchy in milk remains to be seen.

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