The suit accuses Fred's of "unlawfully and deceptively" using Dollar General's color scheme and typeface in a new advertising campaign.
The lawsuit says the only explanation for Fred's moving away from a traditional blue-green color combination in its advertising is an intent to capture Dollar General's brand awareness.
E-mail and phone messages left for a spokesman for Fred's were not returned.
Dollar General places a high value on that black and yellow color combination, calling the color scheme in the lawsuit "most sacred" to its image as providing everyday discounts.
The company is suing, claiming violation of intellectual property rights, false advertising, unfair competition and violation of trademark and trade dress. The suit also claims Fred's is engaging in unfair competition and is in violation of Tennessee's Consumer Protection Act.
The company is asking a federal judge to order Fred's to stop using its trademark colors and typography. It also wants the court to order Fred's to surrender and destroy its marketing materials that Dollar General says are trademarks of its company.
In addition, Dollar General is seeking an unspecified amount of damages, including all profits made by Fred's campaign using the yellow and black colors.
A spokeswoman for Dollar General said the company does not comment on litigation.
Both companies are headquartered in Tennessee. Dollar General, based in Goodlettsville, has more than 8,800 stores across the U.S. A Web site for Memphis-based Fred's says the company has 669 stores throughout the southeast.