Food Trademarks: Cronut®

Yvonne Zhu   

Fluffy dough covered in a sweet glaze, it is difficult to dislike even the description of a good doughnut. Surely, the same thing can also be said of Chef Dominique Ansel’s ingenious Cronut®. Although the Cronut is much less ubiquitous than its doughnut relative, the pastry has been wildly popular ever since its debut. From the omnipresent Dunkin Donuts to specialty doughnut shops, New York City has a high concentration of doughnut outlets. However, the NYC location of Ansel’s bakery is the only place that offers the Cronut®.

Pastry chef Dominique Ansel created and launched the Cronut at his eponymous bakery in New York in May of 2013.[1] The pastry quickly attracted a significant amount of attention on social media platforms and determined Cronut-seekers started flocking to the bakery, creating lines that snaked around the neighborhood.[2] The Cronut’s success inevitably attracted the attention of Ansel’s peers. Within weeks, chefs around the world started to offer their own version of the Cronut.[3]

Ansel actually applied for and obtained a trademark for the Cronut almost immediately after its launch.[4] The Lanham Act of 1946 is a federal trademark-registration legislation enacted by the Congress. It defines a “trademark” as any “word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof” used to distinguish a manufacturer’s goods from those of others.[5] A trademark is thus a symbol that represents the reputation of the manufacturer and indicates the quality of the product. It serves as a protection against competitors who attempt to pass off their own products as the original. Specifically, §43(a) of the Lanham Act introduces the “likelihood of causing confusion” standard and outlines remedies for trademark infringement that stems from false representation.[6]

Trademark for the Cronut bars other chefs from naming their rendition anything that sounds too similar to the original. Nevertheless, these chefs are not barred from making and selling their reproductions. In most instances, recipes are not eligible for copyright protection.[7] This is because courts have viewed recipes as descriptions of procedures and procedures cannot be copyrighted.[8] In Meredith, the 7th Circuit voiced its policy considerations that there can be “no monopoly in the copyright sense in the ideas for producing certain foodstuffs. Nor can there be copyright in the method one might use in preparing and combining the necessary ingredients.”[9] Therefore, nothing is stopping Ansel’s peers from trying to figure out how to deep-fry and transform a croissant into a crispy layered doughnut as long as they do not attempt to lead consumers into believing that their product is the exact same thing as Ansel’s original Cronut.

It is worth noting that Ansel deserves credit for not only recognizing that butter-laminated croissant dough should be dropped into a deep-fryer but also choosing the best name for a croissant doughnut, Cronut. After all, “doissant” and “New York Pie Doughnut” just doesn’t roll off the tongue in the same way that Cronut® does.[10]


[1]Chef,, (last visited Oct. 5, 2020).

[2]This Morning’s Cronut Line Was One for the Record Books, (Aug. 2, 2013),

[3]Here Are Nine Cronut Imposters from Around the World, (June 4, 2013),

[4]CRONUT, Registration No. 4,788,108.

[5]15 U.S.C § 1052

[6]15 USCS § 1125

[7] Publications Int’l, Ltd. v. Meredith Corp., 88 F.3d 473 (7th Cir. 1996)

[8] 16 U.S.C.S. § 102(b)

[9] Meredith, 88 F.3d at 481.

[10] Cronut Knockoff Names, in Order, (Aug. 7, 2013),