John Cordani
John Cordani (Joanne Vandal Picture Perfect USA)

The relationship between a nationally recognized milk producer and a milk substitute maker has soured.

The maker of the bottled milk, TruMoo, is suing the maker of milk substitute NuMoo, saying the dairy-free beverage’s name is a trademark infringement likely to confuse customers. Dean Foods Co., which produces TruMoo, sued Harvest Beverage Group Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut.

The lawsuit lodges trademark infringement and unfair competition claims and alleged the defendant violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. The suit seeks a permanent injunction barring Harvest Beverage Group from using the NuMoo label, as well as actual, treble, punitive and exemplary damages.

“Defendant’s use of the NuMoo Mark is likely to cause confusion among ordinary consumers regarding the source, sponsorship, affiliation, or approval of plaintiff’s or defendants goods. For example, defendant’s NuMoo Products are marketed to the same categories of consumers as plaintiff’s TruMoo Products,” the complaint said. “Specifically, the marks share the similar appearance, sound and meaning.”

Waterbury attorney John Cordani of Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey filed the complaint as local counsel for Griffith Bates Champion & Harper attorney Austin Champion of Dallas. Champion declined to comment without talking with his client first.

Harvest Beverage Group did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

According to the complaint, Dean Foods began making and selling single- and multi-serve flavored milk drinks throughout the country under the TruMoo label in 2009, and the name was trademarked in 2010. The complaint said the product brings in more than $600 million annually, and brand awareness is at nearly 90 percent.

Harvest Beverage Group began using the NuMoo name on its single-serve dairy-free drinks, which are made from ground or milled nuts, as early as 2015, according to the complaint. The drink is sold at various retail chains, including Whole Foods Market stores, and the company filed an application to trademark the NuMoo name in January, the complaint said.

The complaint contends that both products are marketed to the same category of customers and that NuMoo creates too similar of a commercial impression.

“Plaintiff’s and defendant’s good are likely to be sold in the same or similar retail grocery stores, and within these stores displayed in common refrigerated displays often adjacent to each other, and are likely to be advertised through the same or similar marketing channels,” the complaint said. “Finally, dairy-free beverages fall within a natural zone of expansion for Dean Foods, and particularly with reference to its TruMoo products.”