BOSTON — The makers of Marshmallow Fluff, a sweet confection that traces its history back more than 80 years, have sued Williams-Sonoma Inc., claiming the high-end culinary retailer is misusing the registered trademark Fluffernutter.
Durkee-Mower Inc. claims in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston that Williams-Sonoma has been selling a marshmallow and peanut butter chocolate-covered candy named Fluffernutter without permission of the Lynn, Mass.-based company.
The company claimed it has been using the word Fluffernutter — which it describes as a “concoction of Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter combined together in a tasty sandwich” — since at least 1961 in printed recipes and cookbooks.
A spokeswoman for Williams-Sonoma did not immediately return a call for comment. Durkee-Mower notified the San Francisco-based retailer of the lawsuit on Tuesday, according to court filings.
The lawsuit claims Williams-Sonoma has sold Fluffernutter through its printed catalog and Web site. It seeks an unspecified amount of actual and punitive damages.
“Williams-Sonoma has no right to trade on our hard-earned reputation with their so-called Fluffernutter confection,” company President Donald Durkee said in a prepared statement.
Marshmallow Fluff has been around since before 1920, when World War I veterans H. Allen Durkee and Fred L. Mower teamed up to cook and sell the concoction, according to a history posted on the company's Web site.
In the 1930s the company became a pioneer in radio advertising when it sponsored the weekly "Flufferettes" radio show on a regional network in New England.
The company's "Yummy Book" cookbook includes several Fluffernutter recipes including pie, bars, frosting and a shake, all made with Marshmallow fluff and peanut butter, sometimes with other flavors including chocolate. The company registered Fluffernutter as a trademark in the 1960s, said company President Don Durkee.
Williams-Sonoma, based in San Francisco, operates more than 500 stores including Pottery Barn, Hold Everything and its flagship Williams-Sonoma chain. The company, with about 36,000 employees, had sales of about $3.5 billion in its latest year.
Durkee-Mower has 21 employees and distributes if original, raspberry and strawberry Marshmallow Fluff directly and through groceries mainly east of the Rockies, Durkee said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.