A U.S. District Court has ruled that the National Pork Board’s payments to the National Pork Producers Council for the “Pork: The Other White Meat” trademarks must stop.
The court’s decision followed a motion last January by the USDA to dismiss the lawsuit. The USDA authorized the transaction as part of its oversight responsibilities under the 1985 Pork Act. The Pork Act set up the pork checkoff program and established the National Pork Board to administer it. The USDA’s motion argued that the lawsuit, filed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and two other parties, lacked merit, was barred by a six-year statute of limitations, that the plaintiffs failed to establish standing to file the lawsuit or show that they were harmed by the sale of the trademarks, and that the agency’s evaluation of the sale of the trademarks showed they provided significant value to the pork industry.
HSUS and other plaintiffs — which included Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an activist group, and a lone Iowa resident who is a member of this group — claimed that the trademarks were sold for an inflated price. NPPC sold the assets, widely regarded as one of the most recognizable marketing brand assets in history, for $35 million. A USDA-conducted study later valued the trademarks at between $113 million and $132 million.
“We are conducting a thorough review of the decision and evaluating our options. We are disappointed that the court partially denied the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s motion to dismiss this frivolous lawsuit, one that was never based on a legitimate legal challenge to a federally approved transaction but instead was brought by an anti-meat activist group intent on eliminating meat consumption and harming a vast U.S. industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Americans and feeds billions of people at home and abroad,” said Ken Maschhoff, an Illinois pork producer and president of the National Pork Producers Council. “NPPC enjoys the strong support of pork producers nationwide. Regardless of the final outcome in this case, we are well positioned to continue fighting for the livelihood of farmers and others in rural America.”