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D'oh! Salt Lake cookie company facing lawsuit over name

Tami Cromar displays a batch of her My Dough Girl cookies at her store at 770 S. 300 West in Salt Lake City.
Tami Cromar displays a batch of her My Dough Girl cookies at her store at 770 S. 300 West in Salt Lake City.
Josh Shimizu

SALT LAKE CITY — My Dough Girl cookie dough of Salt Lake is not the Pillsbury Doughboy cookie dough of Minneapolis, but that might not make a difference when it comes to what consumers do with their dough.

At least that's what General Mills, owner of Pillsbury's bake-at-home cookies, thinks. The $23 billion company informed My Dough Girl owner Tami Cromar in May via a cease and desist order, to call her line of gourmet take-and-bake frozen cookies something else — or else.

Cromar, who started the company on chutzpa and $10,000 in savings from 15 years as an architectural designer, is not fighting back and no longer talking about the court action. Her hundreds of loyal customers, most all of whom have become her friends, say there's no way Cromar can fight and win. One customer at her store said this week that Cromar's only option is to acquiesce or go broke, "and we wouldn't have any cookies."

Cromar caught Pillsubury's attention when she filed to trademark her product line. She said Thursday she will comply with the corporation's demands, including no longer talking to the news media about it.

Cromar's cookies, which she also sells already baked at her store at 770 S. 300 West for $2.50 each — about the same price as a whole roll of Pillsbury dough found in grocery stores — could not only get a leg up with consumers by banking on Pillsbury's pudgy, ticklish Pop 'n' Fresh icon but could taint its reputation in the process, according to a group of people acting on their own to raise public awareness about her company.

"This is a fight that is neither fair nor warranted," said Joshua Shimizu, a local food writer who said Cromar's cookies make him and just about anyone who has tried them practically swoon.

The two products are nothing alike, in scale or by any measure, said Shimizu, who hopes for a resolution without forcing the name change.

"The whole thing is just kind of sad and probably the product of a giant company's legal staff trying to justify their pay," said Shimizu, who is posting updates on Facebook and who emphasized that he is acting independently. "This is a textbook case of the little guy with everything on the line getting pushed around by the big guy with nothing to lose."

Many of the posts there are similar to one from Linda Carter de Azevedo: "Just picked up my weekly fix at My Dough Girl … and she is mine, not Pillsbury's! Can't believe that there is any problem with the brand naming. … The dough girl is an attractive pin-up girl of the 2010s for Pete's Sake!"

A local attorney who deals in trademark law but who didn't want to give his name said Pillsbury likely feels justified in taking legal action because it is naturally very sensitive to anyone co-opting or confusing a 45-year reputation.

Neither dough products are cookies grandma used to make, but both have linked their products with historical, non-trademarked events — the two world wars. Doughboys, the nickname given to U.S. Army solders heading off to World War I, provided the advertising company that came up with the doughboy idea in 1965 that as soon as Johnny came marching home he made a mad dash for the home-made goods from his mother's kitchen.

Cromar, a BYU graduate whose company history dates back to 2008 when she opened her Salt Lake store, has blended the images of World War II pin-up girls that graced the noses of U.S. bombers with the more down-to-earth women factory workers who rolled up their sleeves and kept things humming on the home front.

"She has the same attitude and the charm of that era," Shimizu said. "It's the same kind of shoulder-to-the-wheel stuff that a lot of small business owners in Utah are made of, plus she's literally making the flavor of Salt Lake a little more unique."

e-mail: jthalman@desnews.com