Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:24 pm
Racine kringle court case takes another twist
By Charles Rathmann, of SBT
The flour is still flying in the ongoing fight over use of the term "Racine kringle" and the Web domain www.racinekringel.com, and now one of Racine’s oldest kringle bakers is getting pelted from both sides.
After court-ordered mediation of the lawsuit by RDK Corp. against Larsen Bakery – both of Racine – failed, a period of discovery leading up to trial was ordered by the U.S. District Court of Eastern Wisconsin, with discovery to be completed by the end of the year.
However, the case of kringle baker Don Hutchinson of Larsen Bakery was dealt a setback in early May when his business liability insurer filed a complaint against him in Racine County Circuit Court, asking the court to absolve the insurer of responsibility to defend Larsen further in the case.
Hutchinson declined to comment on the suit leveled against him by Hawkeye-Security Insurance Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, but said his new legal counsel, Ed Antaramian of Jansson, Shupe & Munger of Racine, would file a response to the complaint before the June 20 deadline.
A spokesman for Hawkeye-Security also declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Sources close to the case suggest that in mediation, Hutchinson balked at a deal that would have set aside a disputed Web domain name, www.racinekringle.com, so neither baker could use it.
However, even before mediation failed, Hawkeye-Security Insurance made it clear in a September 2002 letter to Larsen Bakery that it did not necessarily have to continue defending the kringle maker.
In a letter filed with a civil complaint, the insurer outlined how, when Larsen Bakery renewed its policy in May 2002, it inserted what amounts to a prior acts exclusion clause, absolving the company of responsibility to defend Larsen in any matter resulting from actions originating before the renewal policy came into effect.
RDK Corp., also known as Racine Danish Kringle, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court last July, only days after a suit against Larsen’s former Internet service provider (ISP) was closed.
The earlier suit, directed at racineonline.com, its sister company Ad Vantage Promotions and owner Patrick Flynn, was designed to force the ISP to turn over to RDK the disputed domain.
As is the case for Hutchinson, Flynn’s insurer filed for declaratory judgment, leaving him without means to pay for his defense. Flynn subsequently closed his Wisconsin business and took a job with a Texas-based advertising specialty company.
Legal experts claim RDK’s case is shaky, given that the domain in question is not identical to its copyrighted name, Racine Danish Kringle. In copyright documents, RDK disclaims any other rights to the terms comprising the name. Moreover, the trademark is difficult to protect because it is made up entirely of geographic and general descriptive terms.
June 27, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee