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Tillamook Tussle Transcends Trademarks

Back in 1976, Tillamook Country Smoker started to sell beef jerky and smoked beef.  You're probably more familiar, however, with Tillamook Creamery Cheese, a group of cheese products that have been sold for over 100 years.  Both companies are, not surprisingly, in Tillamook County, Oregon.  Smoker recently started selling its products in grocery stores, presumably not far from the shelves where the Creamery's products are displayed.  The Smoker products had been previously sold by the Creamery online and in the cooperative's catalogs.

Once Smoker started to sell in grocery stores, the Creamery wasn't very pleased.  It considered Smoker's attempts to enter the same channel as an infringement of its trademarks.  So, it sent a cease and desist letter to Smoker.  In response, Smoker sued and asked the court to determine that it had a right to sell in grocery stores and even apply for a separate trademark.

In the words of the Ninth Circuit, the Creamery had a beef with Smoker.

Beef aside, the Court ruled that the Creamery had taken too long to enforce its "Tillamook" trademark, and denied its application to stop Smoker from also using the name.  Whether you have a beef and get confused between the two remains to be seen.  MIPTC will continue to buy both products and enjoy them, despite the tussle between the two companies.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, October 11, 2006

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