As Idaho's aggressive programs made competition more difficult for other production areas, their frustration became apparent, and the Washington Potato Commission, early in 1975, began advertising that "Idaho potatoes grow better in Washington," a clear infringement of the "Idaho® potatoes" registered certification mark.

When the content of the Washington ads was brought to the attention of the Idaho Potato Commission by its advertising counsel, the body voted to take whatever legal steps were necessary to stop the practice. Cease and desist letters from the Commission's legal counsel failed to stop the practice, so at their March meeting the IPC voted to instigate a lawsuit naming the members of the Washington Potato Commission and Pacific National Advertising Agency as defendants, asking for damages and a court order to stop the illegal practice.

Washington's attorneys argued that Idaho had abandoned the trademark, and that they were within their rights to use Idaho® potatoes as a generic term. The legal process went slowly forward for more than a year and was finally resolved with a decision from the United States Court, District of Idaho.

The judge awarded no monetary damages, but the Washington Commissioners were required to sign a stipulation that the Idaho certification mark was valid, and they were "enjoined and restricted from advertising, promoting, or holding out to the public potatoes not grown in Idaho as Idaho® potatoes."

There is no doubt that had Idaho ignored the illegal Washington campaign or if the court had not decided in Idaho's favor, the Idaho name and trademark would have been up for grabs by anyone who wanted to misrepresent a product. The lawsuit attracted national attention and is, in retrospect, one of the most important legal actions that the IPC ever undertook on behalf of the industry.

This case, unfortunately, was not the last misuse of the Idaho trademark, but it did establish with the IPC the necessity to investigate every violation and pursue the instigators, with court action when necessary, to protect the mark.

Page 65 of 108  « Previous  Next »