- Associated Press - Monday, July 18, 2011

NEW HAVEN, CONN. (AP) - Candace Nelson plays a judge on the Food Network’s reality television show “Cupcake Wars.” But now her cupcake company has taken up a legal fight of its own against an upstart business.

Nelson’s company, Sprinkles Cupcakes, is so frosted that it filed a federal trademark-infringement lawsuit Friday in Connecticut against a store named Pink Sprinkles. The lawsuit claims the similarity in names is likely to cause confusion in the marketplace.

“The resulting confusion will damage Sprinkles and injure its reputation in the trade and with the public,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says Sprinkles opened its first store in Beverly Hills in 2005 and became a national phenomenon as the cupcakes were featured on shows hosted by Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and others. Sprinkles, which is based in Texas, has stores in New York, Washington, D.C., California, Dallas, Houston and Scottsdale and is planning to open several more around the country and in London, Paris and Toronto.

Pink Sprinkles opened in 2009 and calls itself “Fairfield’s first cupcake boutique.”

Messages left Monday for the owner of Pink Sprinkles were not immediately returned.

Sprinkles has repeatedly requested that Pink Sprinkles “promptly transition to a new name” but it has refused, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit, which seeks damages and to make Pink Sprinkles stop using the name, calls the dispute “an exceptional case, involving calculated and willful misconduct.”

Sprinkles will have to prove consumers are likely to confuse its cupcake with Pink Sprinkles, said Jessica Litman, a law professor at the University of Michigan who teaches trademark law. She said Sprinkles is a common name for a bakery, the websites are different and the two businesses are not in the same market.

“I think it’s not so weak a case it was stupid to file it but it’s not a strong case,” Litman said.

Charles Nelson, who owns Sprinkles with his wife, said he tried to resolve the dispute amicably but was not successful. He said there has been confusion between the brands, with people erroneously thinking the couple had opened a store in Connecticut, and that their cupcake mix was for sale in Connecticut.

“It’s not about competition,” Nelson said. `It’s just about our name.”