Lidl eviscerates Kroger for trying to undermine its US launch in new court filing

Lidl 68 of 71Business Insider/Hayley PetersonKroger is suing the German grocery chain Lidl.

Lidl is firing back at Kroger and denying any wrongdoing after Kroger accused the German-based supermarket of trademark infringement in a recent lawsuit.

“Kroger has offered a striking absence of evidence in support of its claims,” Lidl said in court papers filed in a Virginia US District Court on Friday.

Lidl said Kroger’s claims of copyright infringement are an attempt to tarnish the German chain’s reputation and undermine its US launch by painting it as a “copycat.”

“Kroger is using this lawsuit to try to: disrupt the on-going launch of a new, emerging competitor that offers consumers high-quality products at far lower prices; distract from the positive reviews garnered by Lidl’s launch by painting Lidl as a copycat — when in fact Lidl is a decidedly different and (better) grocery experience; and drive up Lidl’s costs by having to defend against Kroger’s spurious claims,” Lidl states.

Kroger claimed in a lawsuit filed earlier this month that Lidl’s private-label brand called “Preferred Selection” too closely resembles Kroger’s own house brand, “Private Selection.”

The close resemblance of the names will cause confusion for customers and allow Lidl to “compete unfairly” with Kroger, because customers could assume that the two brands are associated with one another, the lawsuit stated.

Kroger filed the lawsuit less than two weeks after Lidl started rolling out its first US stores.

In the new court filing, Lidl highlights that on the same day of its grand opening in the US, Kroger announced that its margins were down by half and it had to lower earnings guidance for the year.

“Against that backdrop and in reaction to this increased competition, Kroger — two weeks later and without notice to Lidl — filed this suit and motion for a preliminary injunction on the Friday evening before the long July 4th weekend, and sought to have a hearing just days later to try to ram through extraordinary competitive relief to which it is not entitled,” the court papers state. “Although Kroger learned in November 2016 that Lidl intended to offer private-label products under the ‘Preferred Selection’ name and had more than six months to prepare its moving papers, Kroger has offered a striking absence of evidence in support of its claims.”

Kroger is the nation’s largest supermarket chain with nearly 3,000 stores. Lidl is opening 20 stores this summer, and has plans to launch another 80 locations by the middle of next year.

The two chains are expected to compete fiercely on prices, with Lidl promising to offer prices of up 30% below its competitors.

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