Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. received legal protection it’s been seeking since 2008 when a federal judge granted a permanent injunction against Del Monte Foods Co. regarding fruit products the fresh produce company said violate a licensing agreement.
U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein filed the injunction March 28, almost a year after a federal jury awarded $15.13 million in damages to Fresh Del Monte, Coral Gables, Fla.
In April 2012, the jury found that Del Monte Foods Co. — which markets canned produce — violated the licensing agreement it signed when it was separated from the fresh portions of Del Monte in 1989.
The judge issued the permanent injunction because the record shows “danger of recurrent violation.”
“The evidence showed … senior staff discussing ‘what we can get away with vs. Del Monte Fresh Produce’ in selling refrigerated products,” the judge wrote.
The permanent injunction prohibits Del Monte Foods Co., San Francisco, from using the Del Monte trademark brand on five fruits covered by the licensing agreement if they are intended to be refrigerated or chilled at point of sale. Court documents define those fruits as pineapple, melons, berries, papayas and bananas.
“(Del Monte Foods Co.) executives admitted that pasteurized products were labeled ‘must be refrigerated’ despite their concealed knowledge that such products are shelf stable,” Judge Stein wrote. “Considering (their) conduct before and during the litigation, the court finds that there is ‘more than the mere possiblity’ that the infringing conduct will recur.”
The judge also ordered the canned produce company to notify retailers the specified products cannot be refrigerated at point of sale. Additionally, through March 31, 2015, if the canned produce company learns retailers are refrigerating the products, it must notify them in writing that they cannot sell the products under refrigeration.
The product lines in question include Del Monte Co. Fruit Bowls, Fruit Naturals, Superfruit and SunFresh. Fresh Del Monte sought to have the Orchard Select product line included, but the jury did not do so.
Del Monte Food Co. is now also required to state on its product labels if its fruit products have been pasteurized or contain added preservatives. The company cannot state on preserved fruit labels that the product “must be refrigerated,” unless it can provide test results that show the products are not shelf stable. Stein also permanently barred Del Monte Food Co. from using its “Fruit Undressed” advertisements.
Finally, the judge ordered the company to stop using “best by” or “sell by” dates that do not accurately reflect the products' shelf life.