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Traeger Grills wins lawsuits against Pit Boss, founding family members

Traeger CEO says there are still outstanding legal issues on allegations competitor illegally copied pellet grill design elements

Salt Lake City-based Traeger Grills has built a wildly loyal following with its innovative wood pellet grills. The company just announced revamps to its product line, and a new grill model, for 2019. Traeger Grills

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah-based Traeger Grills announced Monday it has settled its case against Joseph, Brian and Mark Traeger and several claims against Dansons US LLC, the maker of Louisiana and Pit Boss grills.

The civil actions were focused on allegations that Traeger family members, and Dansons, illegally leveraged Traeger intellectual property to promote Danson pellet grills.

Traeger filed multiple complaints against Traeger family members and Dansons last year in Florida and Arizona for using iconic branding images and a number of design characteristics unique to Traeger. Jeremy Andrus, Traeger CEO, said the lawsuits were aimed at addressing what he believed were blatant violations of Traeger Grills’ intellectual property rights.

On Monday, Andrus reiterated that he harbors no ill will toward the Traeger family, who founded the company in Oregon in the late 1980s. But he also lauded the courts for establishing protections for the company he bought with an investment partner in 2014 and moved to Utah.

“This is a significant step forward in the effort to protect our brand,” Andrus said in a statement. “As we said from the beginning, we respect the right of the Traeger family to earn a living, so long as they do not violate their contracts with us.

“The settlement agreement reached today provides strong protections against the future misuse of the Traeger name, barn or likenesses to confuse consumers or promote other grills as if they were genuine Traegers.”

Joe Traeger is the man credited with innovating the pellet grill, an outdoor cooker that uses processed, compressed wood pellets that feed a fire from an automated hopper. Traeger adapted the technique from pellet-fired wood stoves in the 1980s and went on to build a family-run business that sold for some $12.4 million in 2006 to a new corporate parent. According to the Traeger complaint, $9 million of that went to secure “the exclusive and perpetual right to use the Traeger name, likenesses and reputation in the wood pellet grill industry,” which transferred to Andrus and Trilantic Partners when they purchased the company in 2014.

Besides claims of similarity in features found on Traeger grills and grills made by Dansons’ brands, the complaints also alleged that images used of a white barn in Oregon with the Traeger name on it has since become part of the company’s branding imagery.

A photo featuring Joe and Brian Traeger, along with Dansons executives Dan Thiessen, Jeff Thiessen and Jordan Thiessen, was posted in a marketing release on the Dansons website along with the announcement of the Traegers’ hiring. The release also included statements that “the first pellet grill was born in 1983 in the signature Traeger Barn, which still sits as a landmark in Mount Angel, Oregon,” and “In this partnership, Traeger will be developing new pellet grilling products alongside Pit Boss founder and pellet grill innovator, Dan Thiessen.”

The courts supported Traeger’s claims that the images were are clear violations of the company’s intellectual property rights.

Traeger said it was granted permanent injunctive relief from Traeger family members and Dansons using the Traeger name, likenesses and reputations, including the Traeger Barn, to promote Dansons or other grills as if they were genuine Traegers.

Andrus said other claims alleging Dansons used Trager-owned intellectual property in the design of its grills remain outstanding.

“We are pleased to put these aspects of the lawsuits behind us and will continue to press forward with our remaining claims against Dansons for misappropriating our trade secrets and copying virtually every aspect of our brand,” Andrus said. “We remain committed to protecting the Traeger brand, our investment, and the trust and loyalty of our community.”

An email request for comment from Dansons was not immediately responded to.