PEORIA — In what a lawyer dubs a case of “David vs. Goliath,” a Peoria sauce-maker is suing the Wendy’s hamburger chain for alleged trademark infringement.
In a five-count suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Peoria, Jaymo’s Sauces says its “S’Awesome” was improperly appropriated by Wendy’s to label, sell and advertise the sauce. One of the counts cites Illinois’ Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act, claiming, “Wendy’s acts were and continue to be undertaken in bad faith and in a deliberate attempt to capitalize on the goodwill and reputation of Jaymo’s and Jaymo’s ‘S’Awesome.’”
The suit seeks “in excess of $75,000” and demands that Wendy’s stop using “S’Awesome.”
The gluten-free and vinegar-based Jaymo’s Sauces were created by Peorian Jamison “Jaymo” Shefts, who after years of experimenting with sauces formed a limited liability corporation in 2013. The next year, bottles of Jaymo’s were first sold online and in central Illinois groceries. In 2015, Shefts added the “S’Awesome” tag to the bottles, which in 2017 Kroger began selling in more than 900 stores in 15 states.
“We think there’s a need for this sauce, something that’s all fresh,” Shefts told the Journal Star at the time. “Our goal is to see if we can get the whole nation.”
According to the lawsuit, in October 2017 Wendy’s began advertising and selling a line of chicken tenders with a sauce labeled “S’Awesome.” Also that month, the chain touted that sauce in a national TV commercial during the World Series.
“Within days of the airing of that commercial, Jaymo’s received multiple telephone calls and personal inquiries from friends and customers expressing confusion and asking if Jaymo’s was somehow affiliated with Wendy’s or if Mr. Shefts had sold Jaymo’s or his ‘S’Awesome’ sauce business to Wendy’s,” the suit contends. “Mr. Shefts also received inquiries from his business partners expressing concern about the long-term viability of Jaymo’s and its ‘S’Awesome’ sauce because of Wendy’s use of Jaymo’s ‘S’Awesome’ trademark.”
That December, Jaymo’s legal counsel contacted Wendy’s, demanding the company cease and desist its use of “S’Awesome.’” Instead, the next year, Wendy’s expanded the use of “S’Awesome” sauce to its bacon-classic cheeseburger and bacon cheese fries, the suit claims.
One of the attorney’s for Jaymo’s Sauces, Louis Meyer of Peoria, declined to immediately comment on the lawsuit, though in an email he referred to the case as “David v. Goliath.” Wendy’s did not immediately return a call for comment for this story.
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.