SALT LAKE CITY — Tami Cromar makes cookies to die for under a name that food product giant Pillsbury believes is a trademark infringement worth fighting over.
Cromar doesn't. Actually, she believes My Dough Girl, the name she was seeking to trademark when the Pillsbury/General Mills attorneys stopped her, is worth going to court to settle, but she won't, and told her customers officially this week on her store's Facebook site.
"I have to stick to baking so cookies can still be a part of all our futures," she wrote. "If the Dough Girl fights, there will be no cookies."
She can keep naming lines of gourmet cookies after World War II pin-up gals like Lilly and Betty, but they won't be dough girls, a marketing idea with no more connection to Pillsbury's doughboy than U.S. Army troops fighting in World War I and the Pop n' Fresh marketing icon.
In any case, Pillsbury alleged that what Cromar was doing was harming the $23 billion food processing giant and infringing on their good name.
The company's trademark infringement notice rubbed against the grain of Cromar's inner entrepreneur. She had stepped out of her hard hat and steel-toed boots in the trenches of 15 years as an architectural designer, took all of her savings — $10,000 — and bought her way into working day and night at the My Dough Girl store on 300 West and 760 West in 2008. Cromar is also going against her 1st Amendment right to speak freely about the situation by going along with a gag order not to talk to the news media.
That's what really grates on her customers, one of whom started "Dough Girl vs. Pillsbury" on Facebook, a rallying point that has generated nearly 1,500 responses from readers who say that the situation is a corporate Goliath again going after and beating a one-store David.
Boycotting Pillsbury comes up a lot as a response, said customer, food writer and public rallying leader Josh Shimizu. So do claims of "shame on you" for picking on a single, small business that he and others believe could be only be portrayed as a business threat in the deepest labyrinths of trademark law.
Running afoul of one of the most famous symbols of one of the biggest big businesses was never in Cromar's marketing plan, and she has assured Pillsbury from the start that she was neither trying to leverage nor tarnish Pop n' Fresh's good name.
"The products are so completely unlike each other, how could anyone ever get the two mixed up?" Shimizu said.
"It's all just pretty silly and so unnecessary," he said, adding that he understands Cromar's desire to go along. "But I won't. I can't. This just isn't right."