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.