To be or not to be: Gluten-free symbol in contention

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Bob's Red Mill is taking the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America to court over gluten-free symbol. Pic: ©GettyImages/bellabrend
Bob's Red Mill is taking the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America to court over gluten-free symbol. Pic: ©GettyImages/bellabrend

Related tags: Gluten-free bakery products, Certification, Lawsuit

Bob’s Red Mill has filed a lawsuit against the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) of North America to continue using a ‘gluten-free’ symbol without paying for certification.

According to court documents, Bob’s Red Mill received an email from the GIG on May 17 asserting trademark rights in a ‘GF’ gluten-free symbol that is similar to one used by the Oregon flour mill.

Bob's Red Mill

It said to Bob’s Red Mill it should cease and desist using the logo on its products or become certified by the non-profit.

However, the mill has contested the not-for-profit association “has no right to exclusive use of the mark” as the US Patent and Trademark Office considers it as “merely descriptive​.”

It is seeking a “declaratory judgment”​ that it is not required to pay for certification or cease using the GF logo, which would “require the withholding from store shelves of millions of dollars’ worth of product,”​ the complaint said.

“At a minimum, complying with GIG’s demand would require a significant redesign and marketing process. Either way, the potential damages exceed $75,000.”

Free for all

The company has also asked the US district judge to declare the GF trademark unenforceable and to enter an injunction prohibiting GIG from claiming that others may not use a similar symbol.

While there is no federal standard for “gluten-free,” the Food and Drug Administration’s gluten-free standard is less than 20 parts per million (ppm): the amount of gluten present due to cross-contamination.

According to Bob’s Red Mill, its gluten-free products are “built at a separate facility with specialized machinery”​ and adhere to a standard of less than 19 ppm.

The Milwaukie company has more than 100 gluten-free products, including flour, cereal, oats, baking mixes and grains.

The GIG adheres the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) verification standards that requires that all finished products using the GFCO Logo contain 10ppm or less of gluten.

The GIG declined to comment.

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