Pillsbury, through the law offices of Fulbright & Jaworski, has demanded that Columbia and other users of the term "bake-off" cease doing so, claiming that it infringes on their trademark.
The term bake-off has been used for more than twenty years in the Internet for interoperability testing events where engineers get together to check whether implementations of protocols and API indeed work together. Bake-offs have been held for TAPI, DCHP, TCP/IP, SIP and many other Internet and computer technologies.
The earliest reference that has been found is in RFC 1025 (TCP and IP bakeoff), published in 1987, which references a bakeoff event held in 1979. RFC 1371 and RFC 2405 also reference bakeoffs.
The US Patent and Trademark Office has three "live" listings for the term "bake-off", all referring to food and cooking contests.
Word Mark BAKE-OFF Goods and Services IC 041. US 107. G & S: arranging and conducting cooking and baking contests. FIRST USE: 19500000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19500000 Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING Serial Number 74147821 Filing Date March 4, 1991 Published for Opposition December 7, 1993 Registration Number 1824653 Registration Date March 1, 1994 Owner (REGISTRANT) PILLSBURY COMPANY, THE CORPORATION DELAWARE Pillsbury Center 200 South Sixth Street Minneapolis MINNESOTA 55402 Attorney of Record RUTH M MEGER Prior Registrations 0871348;0938249 Type of Mark SERVICE MARK Register PRINCIPAL Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). Live/Dead Indicator LIVE Word Mark BAKE-OFF Goods and Services IC 016. US 038. G & S: COOK BOOKS. FIRST USE: 19580000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19580000 Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING Serial Number 72283029 Filing Date October 20, 1967 Registration Number 0871348 Registration Date June 17, 1969 Owner (REGISTRANT) PILLSBURY COMPANY, THE CORPORATION DELAWARE 1343 PILLSBURY BLDG. MINNEAPOLIS MINNESOTA 55402 Type of Mark TRADEMARK Register PRINCIPAL Affidavit Text SECT 15. Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 19890617 Live/Dead Indicator LIVE Word Mark BAKE-OFF Goods and Services IC 035. US 101. G & S: COOKING CONTESTS FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROMOTING THE CREATION OF NEW RECIPES. FIRST USE: 19500000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19500000 Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING Serial Number 72354774 Filing Date March 23, 1970 Registration Number 0938249 Registration Date July 18, 1972 Owner (REGISTRANT) PILLSBURY COMPANY, THE CORPORATION DELAWARE PILLSBURY CENTER 200 SOUTH SIXTH ST. MINNEAPOLIS MINNESOTA 55402 Attorney of Record RICHARD Q. RUSSETH Prior Registrations 0871348 Type of Mark SERVICE MARK Register PRINCIPAL Affidavit Text SECT 15. SECT 8 (6-YR). Renewal 1ST RENEWAL 19920325 Live/Dead Indicator LIVE
January 25, 2001 Digits Digits: Gambits & Gadgets In the World of Technology Doughboy Defense Pillsbury Co. has sent cease-and-desist letters to the hosts and sponsors of technology-industry-standard "bake-off" contests -- including Columbia University's Computer Science and Electrical Engineering department and Sun Microsystems -- claiming that the use of the term "bake-off" in tech circles infringes on its decades-old trademark. Pillsbury's first baking contest was held at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1949. The contest became annual and the term "bake-off" entered the U.S. vernacular. Pillsbury, a subsidiary of London consumer-goods company Diageo PLC, has held a trademark on "bake-off" since 1971. In the tech world, though, "bake-offs" describe events where engineers pit new technology standards against each other. Columbia University said it was mulling its response to the letter from Pillsbury; Sun confirmed only that it had received the letter. --David Hamilton, Pui-Wing Tam, Sharon Cleary and Khanh T. L. Tran contributed to this column.