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Utah cookie wars carry on, inside and outside of court

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After a judge on Wednesday denied a request for two separate trials, here’s a look at where the lawsuits filed by Orem-based cookie company Crumbl against rivals Dirty Dough and Crave stand.

Graham Dudley, KSL.com

All's fair in love and cookie wars.

Cookie company Dirty Dough has seen an increase in sales since being sued earlier this year by competitor Crumbl, Dirty Dough founder Bennett Maxwell recently told KSL, calling the lawsuit "the best thing that could have happened to us."

Dirty Dough has spent $56,000 in legal fees so far, Maxwell said, which is only a drop in the bucket compared to how much money it has brought in through new franchise contracts.

The so-called "Utah cookie wars" began in May 2022 when Crumbl filed a federal lawsuit accusing rivals Dirty Dough and Crave of what it calls "confusingly similar" logos, websites and other marketing materials. The lawsuit also accused Dirty Dough of copying recipes, claiming the founder's brother is a former Crumbl employee.

But Maxwell says two voice memos Crumbl presented as evidence to his company's legal team through the discovery phase will actually help his case. "There's supposedly these voice memos that prove that we stole documents when these voice memos don't even talk about documents, they don't mention recipes," he said.

Booming business isn't the only way Maxwell has been taking advantage of the publicity generated by the lawsuit. In July, Dirty Dough launched a series of billboards highlighting the lawsuit. One reads, "Cookies so good we're being sued!" while another says, "We don't file lawsuits, we just have better cookies!"

District court records show, as of Thursday, lawyers for Crumbl and Dirty Dough were working to resolve a dispute regarding information Dirty Dough hasn't released to Crumbl during the discovery process. Dirty Dough has agreed to produce additional information for Crumbl between Friday and next Monday, court records show.

Additionally, on Wednesday, a judge denied Crave's request for two separate trials, court records show. One trial would have determined Crave's level of liability and the other would have determined damages owed.

D. Craig Parry, an attorney representing Crave, said the judge stated "without elaboration" that Crave did not meet the "very high burden of proof" necessary to order two separate trials.

"Nothing in the ruling affected or reflected the merits of the case," Parry said.

Crumbl’s lawsuits

The suits, filed in the U.S. District Court on May 10, indicate that Crumbl is seeking triple damages from Crave and Dirty Dough, in an amount deemed fair by the court. An amended lawsuit against Crave was filed June 29.

Crumbl's lawsuits detail the websites, packaging and menu features the company believes Crave and Dirty Dough have taken from them. They include header sections with close-up pictures of cookies; a cookie logo with a bite taken out of it; long boxes that perfectly fit cookies side by side; and similar cookie recipes and presentation, such as key lime cookies with white frosting and lime wedges on top or sugar cookies made with fruity cereal.

The lawsuits also claim that both rival businesses have copied Crumbl's "unique weekly rotating menu concept."

Additionally, the suits filed against Crave claim that Crave co-founder Trent English toured a Crumbl location and even applied to be a franchisee shortly before starting his own business in 2019.

"The fact that Crave was founded by a former Crumbl applicant with knowledge of Crumbl's business and brand identity shows that Crave was clearly aware of Crumbl and the Crumbl trade dress," the lawsuit states.

Crave filed a response to the lawsuit on June 8, denying that English ever applied for or was denied a Crumbl franchise. It also denies that Crave is in violation of any intellectual property rights.

The lawsuit against Dirty Dough claims that Bradley Maxwell, identified as a Dirty Dough founder, was a process engineer at Crumbl from March 2019 through June 2019. Through this position, he became familiar with Crumbl's recipes, methods and formulas, as well as its branding identity, the lawsuits allege.

He also signed agreements stating he would not expose this confidential, insider information at any time during or after his employment, according to Crumbl.

Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Bennett Maxwell, Bradley Maxwell's brother, applied to be a Crumbl franchisee in the spring or summer of 2019. He was interviewed but not hired and began his own business in 2019, it states.

"Bradley and Bennett Maxwell appropriated an aesthetic and trade dress similar to Crumbl's branding and the Crumbl trade dress with the intent to benefit and profit from the widespread name recognition and goodwill Crumbl has built in its marks and trade dress," the lawsuit states.

KSL-TV reported that Dirty Dough refutes the claims that the company formed in 2019, stating it started in 2018. Dirty Dough also claims that Bradley Maxwell had no hand in the formation of the company.

Bennett Maxwell posted a response to the suit on LinkedIn: "A billion dollar company suing 2 start ups. Why? Because apparently if you put sprinkles (on) your cookies, Crumbl thinks they own that. Watch out Grandma, you better throw away those sprinkles or you will be Crumbl's next victim. ...

"Crumbl Cookies, you guys are the leaders in the industry. We all look up to your example of success. What's up with this lawsuit? Billion dollar company bullying multiple start ups with a lawsuit, all based on untrue statements? The industry is plenty big for more than one cookie company."

Dirty Dough filed a response to the lawsuit on July 13. The company said only that Bradley Maxwell worked for Crumbl in 2019 and denied all allegations of wrongdoing.