Cronuts, Clones And Trademarks: How Real Does “The Real Thing” Have To Be?

April 11, 2014

Cream croissant and doughnut mixtureI’ve never had a cronut, but as a lover of carbohydrates of all kinds, I desperately want one.

But do I want a Cronut™ or do I want a cronut? There might soon be a difference – maybe.

Dominique Ansel, who is credited with inventing the fried croissant-doughnut at the New York bakery that bears his name, applied to trademark the name “Cronut” in May 2013. That’s pretty expeditious, since he has claimed the cronut made its debut on May 10, 2013.

(Let’s give the man some credit, because he’s seriously working to let the world know Cronuts are his thing, not anybody else’s.)

Apparently, at least two parties have filed for extensions to oppose the claim. If Ansel doesn’t win his trademark, other people will be free to use the term “Cronut” for their baked goods.

In a way, it might be a moot point. Almost as soon as the Cronut was a hit, the imitators started serving their own versions. They usually found some other name for them (names that hinted at the fact that they were Cronut clones) but from what I’ve read, the baked goods themselves were pretty similar to Ansel’s cronut, and they were available without long lines or black market prices.

I confess to having one of those emotion-based, purism streaks that causes me to believe there’s something ineffable about having “the real thing.” I don’t care if your fried blob of dough looks, tastes and smells indistinguishable from one of the heavenly masterpieces from Dominique Ansel. I don’t want it. (See also: My way-too-philosophical musings on Wonder Bread and Twinkies.)

Regardless of whether Ansel gets his trademark, cronut imitations are probably here to stay. Popularity breeds imitators, and Ansel isn’t going to be able to stop people from making cronut copies. What I’m interested to see if what happens if he does get his trademark. Are there enough people like me, people who believe it’s not a “real” cronut unless it comes from Dominique Ansel, or are there lots of people who will be satisfied with a close-enough?