Grandma Campbell is finding out the hard way what's in a name.
The tiny Grafton potato chip firm shares a moniker with the giant Campbell Soup Co. of Camden, N.J."We are going to be changing the name of our product" at the request of the soup giant, Bill Campbell says. He's one of three brothers who founded the snack food company in 1986 as part of their potato farming operation, Tri-Campbell Farms.
The firm has expanded its market and product line steadily, adding such products as caramel popcorn and corn chips.
Grandma Campbell's Potato Chips, hand-cooked in peanut oil, have gained wide popularity in North Dakota and are sold in Minneapolis.
Campbell said the conflict with Campbell Soup has "been brewing for about a year and half. There has been no legal action. They're not coming down hard on us. They've just suggested to us that if we want to do anything with the product, we might want to change the name."
"It's our surname and we could possibly fight 'em," he said, "but who would win in a legal fight like that?"
Campbell Soup is a giant conglomerate with annual sales of about $5 billion. Grandma Campbell's produces 2,000 to 2,500 pounds of chips a day, employs 10 people and has annual sales of less than $1 million.
Trademark laws generally protect one's right to use his or her own name in marketing a product, according to Grand Forks patent attorney Robert Kleve. But evidence that someone, by intent or by effect, took advantage of a widely known brand name in advertising a product could restrict that right, he added.
Kleve emphasized he was not referring to any specific case.
Bill Campbell said his firm hasn't decided on a new name for its potato chips or when the packaging will be changed. "It's not going to happen in the near future," he said.
Celebrated as pop art by the late Andy Warhol, Campbell Soup's familiar logo on the red-and-white soup can is one of the most recognizable product labels in the United States.
Campbell Soup Co. officials could not be reached for comment.