Utah's cookie competition continued on July 13 when Dirty Dough and Crave Cookies filed responses to Crumbl's recent trademark infringement lawsuits. The responses add a new chapter in Crumbl's legal actions against its Utah competitors.
It's been just over two months since the company, founded in Logan by Sawyer Hemsley and Jason McGowan, filed a lawsuit against Dirty Dough, a cookie business that started in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018.
The lawsuit alleges "in late 2019, a Crumbl insider left Crumbl to found Dirty Dough, which sells and promotes cookies using packaging, decor, and presentation that is confusingly similar to Crumbl's established and successful trade dress and brand identity."
Dirty Dough CEO Bennett Maxwell, who's brother was a Crumbl employee, told The Herald Journal that the timeline of Dirty Dough's creation counters the statement.
"I'm like, you guys know that Dirty Dough was already started in 2018," Maxwell said.
He also disagreed with the allegations stating Dirty Dough was profiting using marketing techniques stolen from Crumbl.
"Out of any cookie-to-cookie companies in the world, I think we're the most different," Maxwell said. "The whole branding and the messaging is Dirty Dough. The cookies are dirty and messy but that's okay... don't wait for perfection to be happy."
Besides the messaging of his company, Maxwell also said the products themselves are inherently different. He cited his company's multi-layer cookies and fillings as key differences.
"I've been a big fan of crumble, big supporter," Maxwell said, explaining how he's praised them on every podcast he's appeared on in recent months.
Maxwell said it wasn't until the company started preparing to spread to Utah that Crumbl expressed concerns toward Dirty Dough.
"Then, all of a sudden out of nowhere … we get hit with a lawsuit," Maxwell said.
According to Maxwell, Crumbl didn't send a cease-and-desist letter. Still, he said he hoped the companies could work out any issues.
"Well, we'll see if they want to talk … what's the solution here?" Maxwell said, describing his company's initial reaction to the lawsuit. "Their attorneys didn't reach out, we reached out to them — told them we accepted counsel, all that. They didn't ask for a call, nothing."
After talking with the owner of Crave Cookies, another cookie company that has come to Utah, Maxwell said he found they had also been sued by Crumbl. The complaint against Crave Cookies was filed in late June and contains very similar allegations as those in the lawsuit against Dirty Dough.
"In November of 2019, after Crumbl denied an application by Crave's founder to become a Crumbl franchisee, Crave began selling and promoting its copycat gourmet cookies," Crumbl's complaint reads before alleging Crave Cookies has used Crumbl's marketing techniques and advertising. "Crave's unauthorized use of Crumbl's trade dress is an effort to ride the coattails of the valuable goodwill, reputation, and brand identity associated with Crumbl."
An answer to an amended complaint was filed by Crave on July 13.
"Defendants deny that Crave's founder applied for or was denied an application to become a Crumble franchisee or that Crave is in violation of any of Crumbl's alleged trademarks, trade dress, or other intellectual property rights," the document states.
Crave co-founder Trent English said he believes Crumbl's actions are a response to their growing concern about developing competitors.
"We find no merit to the claims made by Crumbl and see this simply as an improper attempt by a threatened competitor to use a lawsuit to stifle fair and free competition and deny consumers a choice of products," English said in a statement to The Herald Journal and others who have asked Crave Cookies about the matter. "Our customers crave our cookies not because they are confused, but because they want the best cookies on the market."
Court records indicate Crumbl has sued three other cookie companies nationwide.
"They're obviously not wanting to find a solution, or else why wouldn't they talk with us or send a cease-and-desist letter," Maxwell said. "I think it was a bully tactic."
Though Maxwell thinks the lawsuit is a strike at competition, he did mention that it has given Dirty Dough opportunities to benefit.
"It is going to cost us money," Maxwell said, "and we would rather not deal with it. But we're getting nationwide press right now."
In the end, he said, it balances out.
In a statement to The Herald Journal, Crumbl said they are protecting their success:
"As a franchisor of 30,000+ Crumbl Crew members, 1,000+ Franchise Partners, and hundreds of Crumbl HQ employees, we will always take seriously our role in building and protecting the company and its trademarks that we've all worked so hard to create together."