Food fight: Baileys Irish Cream sues Eli’s over cheesecake

11/14/2011 20:35:48 PM

A Donnybrook is brewing between Dublin-based Baileys Irish Cream and Chicago-based Eli’s Cheesecake.

The Irish liqueur company granted Eli’s permission to use the Baileys logo for just four months, from September 1999 to January 2000, to market a Millennium Cheesecake, according to a lawsuit Baileys filed in federal court in Chicago this week.

However, Eli’s continued to use the Baileys logo to market an Irish cream-flavored cheesecake “inferior in taste and quality to [Baileys] cheesecake” right up until last year, the suit states. Now Eli’s won’t promise to refrain from resuming use of the Baileys logo, according to the suit.

To add insult to injury, Eli’s never even put Baileys Irish Cream liqueur in the cheesecake — only in the whipped topping on the cheesecake, the lawsuit states.

“The ‘Baileys Cheesecake’ product sold by defendant has been described by defendant as ‘[a] luxurious layer of Irish Cream cheesecake filled with Baileys Irish Cream whipped topping, a splash of chocolate and a dusting of imported cocoa.’” The suit states. “Notably, this description does not state that the defendant’s product includes any amount of Baileys Irish Cream liqueur in the cheesecake itself, rather it is in its ‘whipped topping.’”

Not only is Eli’s using the Bailey’s logo to sell cheesecakes, but the company also pirated Baileys’ distinctive eyebrow-shaped design in the Eli’s Cheesecake logo, according to the lawsuit, which asks a judge to enjoin Eli’s from using the logo.

Eli’s has even gone so far as to misspell Baileys with an apostrophe, the lawsuit states.

An Eli’s marketing employee said the company has been using its current logo for “eight or nine years.” But the worker declined to answer any questions about the lawsuit, and a company lawyer did not return phone calls.

Baileys started in Ireland in 1974, came to the United States in 1979, and is the world’s top-selling liqueur brand, the lawsuit states. Baileys has lent its name and flavor to Haagen-Dasz ice cream and chocolates.

Eli Schulman started making cheesecake at his well-known Chicago steak house in 1977. The cheesecake operation moved to its current Northwest Side location in 1996 where it produces about 20,000 cheesecakes a day in 100 different flavors.

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