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Harris Teeter parent sues German rival Lidl for trademark infringement

Shoppers look over the bakery display during the grand opening of a Lidl grocery store last month in Virginia Beach, Va. Lidl plans to have 100 stores open across the East Coast by next summer.
Shoppers look over the bakery display during the grand opening of a Lidl grocery store last month in Virginia Beach, Va. Lidl plans to have 100 stores open across the East Coast by next summer. AP

Kroger, the Cincinnati-based grocer that owns Harris Teeter, is suing Lidl for trademark infringement just two weeks after the Germany-based competitor opened its first stores in the Carolinas and Virginia.

In a complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court in Virginia, Kroger claims that Lidl’s house brand, “Preferred Selection,” resembles Kroger's own brand, “Private Selection.” Both companies use the respective brands for their private label foods. Kroger is seeking an injunction to prohibit Lidl from using the “Preferred Selection” brand in its stores.

Kroger says that Lidl’s “Preferred Selection” brand, registered last September, takes advantage of Kroger’s customer loyalty by intentionally leading customers to believe Lidl’s products have a relationship with Kroger’s “Private Selection” brand.

“Lidl is misrepresenting to consumers, and contributing to the ability of others to misrepresent, that the goods and services of Lidl are sponsored by, approved by, or certified by Kroger, or that Kroger is the source of same,” according to the complaint.

Kroger is the largest U.S. grocery chain by revenue with almost 3,000 stores in operation. It acquired Matthews-based Harris Teeter in 2014 for $2.5 billion.

The German grocer Lidl opened its first U.S. stores in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina this summer and plans to have 100 stores open across the East Coast by next summer, according to a press release. Currently, it operates more than 10,000 stores in 27 countries. The company has been building a regional headquarters in Alamance County, about 55 miles northwest of Raleigh.

The Observer has reported that Lidl has a few stores planned for the Charlotte area including one on Williamson Road in Mooresville and another on South Boulevard in South End. It has not announced when these stores will open.

A Lidl spokesperson told the Observer the company could not comment on pending litigation. He added that “Preferred Selection is a unique specialty brand that was developed by Lidl and has been positively accepted by our customers.”

Competition among grocers has been intensifying as the European competitors enter the U.S. market. Lidl’s German rival, Aldi, said it plans to invest $3.4 billion to expand its footprint to 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022. Aldi has already reopened two newly remodeled Charlotte-area stores this year.

Wei Zhou: 704-358-5240

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