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Food for thought: giant grocers square off in Virginia lawsuit

On one side is the nation's largest grocer, Kroger, and its 2,800 stores. On the other side is one of the smallest grocery chains in the nation: Lidl, with just 10 outlets. Three of Germany's discount chain stores are here in Virginia; and the company has plans to have 100 stores open by summer of 2018.

Kroger recently filed a lawsuit in Richmond against Lidl (rhymes with "needle"), charging its emerging rival with trademark infringement, unfair competition and violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

The Washington Post reports that U.S. grocers are bracing for increasingly stiff competition from Germany's Aldi and Lidl; both of which rely heavily on private-label brands to help them undercut name-brand prices at traditional grocery stores.

The American grocer says Lidl is "causing confusion" with its “Preferred Selection” in-house brand, which Kroger says is too much like its own “Private Selection” label.

Lidl's infringement means "Kroger has suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable injury," Kroger alleges in its suit. It says its trademarks and business reputation will suffer most if Lidl is allowed to continue marketing its “Preferred Selection” products.

Lidl plans to open a new Virginia store soon, and has locations currently in North Carolina and South Carolina as well.

The Post says many shoppers have come to realize in recent years that private-label brands are a lot better today than when they first emerged back in the 1980s.

Private-label stuffs rang up more than $120 billion in U.S. sales last year, making it clear how high the stakes in this litigation are for all concerned.

Business owners concerned about trademark infringement can speak to a McLean attorney experienced in intellectual property defense litigation.

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