Lidl just won the first battle in its war against Kroger

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A federal judge has denied Kroger’s request to force Lidl to stop selling items under its ‘Preferred Selection’ brand. Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

The German grocery chain Lidl just notched its first win in a legal battle with Kroger.

A federal judge on Tuesday denied Kroger’s request to force Lidl to stop selling items under its “Preferred Selection” brand.

In a lawsuit filed last month, Kroger said Lidl’s brand too closely resembled its own “Private Selection” label.

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.

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. ruled Tuesday that the logos look “somewhat alike” but said “private” and “preferred” have different definitions, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“I think the public interest lies in competition,” he said, according to the Times-Dispatch. “I don’t find they have an identical or similar meaning.”

Kroger is the nation’s largest supermarket chain with nearly 3,000 stores. The company filed its lawsuit against Lidl a couple weeks after the German chain, which has 10,000 stores globally, opened its first US stores. Lidl is planning to open 100 stores along the East Coast by next summer.

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

In a response to the lawsuit, Lidl accused Kroger of trying to thwart its US debut.

“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,” the company stated in court papers.

Gibney set a Jan. 11 date for a bench trial on the matter.