Ina Garten, famously known as the Barefoot Contessa, filed suit Tuesday against a California food company, saying that it is selling unauthorized look-alikes of her frozen dinners.
The mild-mannered Garten, who hosts the Food Network's "Barefoot Contessa" cooking show from her East Hampton home, took the food fight against California-based OFI Imports Inc. to U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Garten sued after the company refused to heed her demands to stop the sales, the lawsuit said.
OFI didn't return phone calls seeking comment.
Barefoot Contessa dinners were produced by third-party manufacturer Contessa Premium Foods, a Pennsylvania company, from February 2013 until last spring, when the company went out of business. Garten had no ownership in the company, said a news release issued Tuesday on behalf of the popular TV host and cookbook author. OFI bought the Contessa Premium Foods assets but didn't acquire licensing rights for the Barefoot Contessa brand, the lawsuit said.
OFI sought to become a licensee of the brand but was turned down because of its lack of experience in the frozen-food business beyond seafood, the lawsuit said.
The company had permission to finish selling previously manufactured Barefoot Contessa foods for a six-month period, which expired late last year, a source close to the situation said. But it continued to sell the food beyond that period and manufactured new products, called Contessa Chef Inspired, "the vast majority of which are the same dinners using the same recipes as the dinners previously manufactured under the terminated license," the lawsuit said.
Customers complained to Garten's company, Barefoot Contessa Pantry LLC, about OFI products that "they incorrectly believed are Barefoot Contessa products," the news release said.
"The continued production of products bearing the name 'Contessa Chef Inspired' and sold in a way that is virtually identical to 'Barefoot Contessa' dinners, represents clear infringement of our intellectual property rights," Garten said in the release.
The lawsuit seeks to stop the sales and to award Garten damages, including any profits from unauthorized sales.