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Low-Carb Food Manufacturer Dixie Diner In Possible Trademark Infringement Using The Atkins Name

Posted Jul 14 2009 11:48pm

Dixie Diner’s low-fat, low-carb products fit the “Eco-Atkins” diet

Last month I shared with you a study that was published in the June 8, 2009 issue of the medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine about a new plant-based low-carb diet the researchers described as “Eco-Atkins.” They were attempting to make the original high-fat, low-carb Atkins diet as outlined by the late great Dr. Robert C. Atkins supposedly even “better” by transforming it into a low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie nutritional approach in an effort to lower LDL cholesterol levels while still helping people lose weight. Basically, this “Eco-Atkins” is a vegetarian low-carb diet attempting to piggyback on the success of Atkins. Read the irreverent, but spot-on commentary from low-carb author and real Atkins diet defender Dana Carpender had to say about this supposedly “new and improved” low-carb diet.

Well, it didn’t take long for one of the biggest low-carb food manufacturers to use this study as a marketing tool for branding their entire product line with the “Eco-Atkins” concept. The Tomball, TX-based Dixie Diner has long created packaged products for the low-carb and low-fat market that suit dieters of any persuasion. I remember trying a few of the Dixie Diner foods a few years ago and even spoke with a company representative at the time about why they were in business. Their answer was to make “health food that tastes like junk food” while limiting both carbohydrates and fat. While they succeeded in virtually eliminating almost everything except protein and fiber from their products, the taste was downright atrocious. I’m all for finding low-carb alternatives, but they gotta taste good.

Just about everything Dixie Diner has created is made with some kind of soy byproduct and sweetened with something called “low glycemic monosacharide” and “low glycemic fruit concentrate.” I don’t even want to know what those things are, but they certainly don’t sound like something I want going inside my body. With literally hundreds upon hundreds of packaged food products for people following a dairy-free, gluten-free, low-carb, low-fat, fat-free, low-sodium, sugar-free, vegan, or diabetic diet, Dixie Diner has tried to be everything to everybody with their business model. But now they’ve jumped on the “Eco-Atkins” bandwagon and could be headed into some legal trouble by doing so.

Bob Beeley, chairman of Dixie USA Inc. which has manufactured and distributed the Dixie Diner product line for three decades, issued a statement last week to stores selling his products regarding his company’s decision to start using the “Eco-Atkins” term (using that logo you see at the top of this column) on the front packaging of their products to proudly promote their low-fat, low-carb products. He said this is a natural continuation of the work they have been doing since they first started providing a line of low-carb products to the Atkins Nutritionals company a few years back.

“From the beginning, Dixie was the leading supplier to Atkins Nutritionals of lower-fat low carb products. We were proud to have been their largest third-party vendor. Most of the original products were developed by Dixie for Atkins, and continue to be manufactured and sold by Dixie today. But it didn’t stop there. Dixie continues to develop better low carb products. Eco-friendly is a new word for Dixie’s original products. It still applies today,” Beeley stated.

He went on to say that this new research published last month confirms his long-held belief that a vegetarian version of the Atkins diet is much more preferred for people who are on a low-carb diet than the original high-fat version created by Dr. Atkins.

“Based upon the recent studies showing the substantial benefits of vegetarian-based low carb eating, Dixie has adopted (and registered) the moniker “ECO-ATKINS” and will begin using it on many of its low carb products,” Beeley added. “Dixie has been eco-friendly since its beginning more than thirty years ago. We will continue to do so and welcome you as partners in good health, good nutrition, and sustainable agriculture.”

But there’s only one problem for Beeley and Dixie Diner and it’s a pretty major one–the term “Atkins” they are so blatantly using is a registered trademark of Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. (ANI) and has been since 1999. When ANI discontinued the vast majority of their product line in 2005 following their bankruptcy, Dixie Diner no longer became a third-party vendor for them and was no longer authorized to use the Atkins logo on their packaging. In fact, according to the ANI web site about their trademarks, the terms ATKINS, ATKINS ADVANTAGE, ATKINS ENDULGE, the ATKINS “A” logo, DR. ATKINS, ATKINS DIET, ATKINS NUTRITIONAL APPROACH and other related marks are the exclusive property and trademarks of ANI. So does this mean the use of “Eco-Atkins” is a possible trademark infringement?

Keep in mind that it is illegal for any business or individual to use any of those terms in Google advertising or other forms of marketing of or for products or services they want to bring to the attention of consumers. That’s why the copyright and trademark laws are in place to prevent the blatant misuse of the intellectual property of others. I’ve left a message with a representative from Atkins Nutritionals regarding this potential legal violation by Dixie Diner and will provide you an update on their response to this when I hear back from them. This could become a very ugly legal battle in the coming months.

Is all this really worth the hassle just to use a stupid, meaningless term like “Eco-Atkins?” Would you buy a product simply because it promoted itself in that manner? Share your comments about this issue below and tell us whether you think Atkins Nutritionals has a case for trademark violation against Dixie Diner.

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