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Chicago • The nation's two largest hot dog makers took their legal beefs on Monday to federal court, where a judge will determine whether Oscar Mayer or Ball Park franks broke false-advertising laws in their efforts to become top dog.

As the bench trial got under way, U.S. Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow cast his eyes across the Chicago courtroom, where half a dozen attorneys were at opposing tables, and said, "Let the wiener wars begin."

The battle pits Chicago-area companies Sara Lee Corp., which makes Ball Park franks, against Kraft Foods Inc., which makes Oscar Mayer, in a case that could clarify how far companies can go when boasting that their product is better than a competitor's.

Despite the light-hearted remark by the judge, attorneys for the food makers struck a serious tone.

Sara Lee had fired the first volley in a 2009 lawsuit singling out Oscar Mayer ads that brag its dogs beat Ball Park franks in a national taste test. Leighton argued the tests were deeply flawed, including by serving the hot dogs to participants without buns or condiments.

Kraft filed its own lawsuit in 2009, alleging that Sara Lee ran false and deceptive ads, including a campaign in which Ball Parks are heralded as "America's Best Franks."