NatureSweet sues Mastronardi over trademark - The Packer

NatureSweet sues Mastronardi over trademark

05/08/2012 05:08:00 PM
Mike Hornick

Mastronardi responds: Mastronardi Produce: Trademark suit unfounded

(UPDATED COVERAGE, May 9) NatureSweet, Ltd. is suing rival tomato grower-shipper Mastronardi Produce Ltd. for alleged trademark infringement.

San Antonio-based NatureSweet filed the lawsuit May 8 in U.S. District Court in Dallas.

NatureSweet is asking the court to force Kingsville, Ontario-based Mastronardi Produce to drop the Angel Sweet name plus design and packaging features of a grape tomato product expected to start shipping this month.

The suit claims the features will cause consumers to confuse the new Angel Sweets with NatureSweet Cherubs.

“We want to be sure that’s not misrepresented as a product we’re affiliated with, because we’re not,” Bryant Ambelang, NatureSweet president, said May 9. “We can all end this at 5 p.m. today if our competitor withdraws a confusing trademark and winged tomato, and ends the use of a package that we own the design patents for. I was surprised I wasn’t contacted by Mastronardi before they decided to use the trademark.”

Ambelang said he first learned of Angel Sweet in late April from an ad on The Packer website. “Later on we had somebody bring in a picture that was part of a news release for the product, and then we saw it again at the United Fresh show last week,” he said.

Cherubs generate about $300 million in annual sales to NatureSweet clients, Ambelang said. Most retailers carrying the product are west of the Mississippi River, where Cherubs launched six years ago.

“In the oldest markets, Texas and Colorado in particular, our market research indicates we have four times the brand recognition that (Mastronardi’s) Sunset does,” Ambelang said. “It’s 80% in a place like Austin, Texas, and 60% outward. People ask for that package, the winged tomato and the Cherub name. The closest brand to that in fresh tomatoes is Sunset at 20%.”

The brand went national this year, Ambelang said, and NatureSweet is distributing Cherubs in Eastern states.

“We’ve spent millions of dollars on greenhouses to produce this tomato, on TV campaigns to advertise it and on the brand and packaging itself,” Ambelang said. “Consumers are looking for it by name. That’s not an accident, but something we’ve spent years on and protected.”

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ct.  |  May, 09, 2012 at 09:09 AM

This comment has been deleted.

Nogales  |  May, 09, 2012 at 10:08 AM

Brand Positioning has it's benefits.

May, 17, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Pardon my french but Ambelang is full of BS!!!. Just like any business that makes it not only local but national as well it's a competitive business. It's FOOD PEOPLE!!!. of course theirs going to be others that are going to try and stop a company from making more money or even making money period. Thats just the nature of the business. Who in their right mind wants their competitor to release a new pack that has been very profitable for them. Ambelang is just afraid that they will be put out of business just like other competitors have been due to Mastronardis fresh and excellent quality. I buy their vegetables all the time you can't compare their freshness with any other company and thats just the bottom line.

José Mirafina    
Ontario, Canada  |  May, 18, 2012 at 05:43 PM

@ anonymous, I can't forgive your horrendous English so it might be difficult to pardon your French. Really? Full of BS? Looks like the defendant was holding the door when they were giving out originality. Let's take a closer look and the label and the package. • Halo? Check. • Tomato with wings? Check. • Two words right underneath, with the second being "Sweet?" Check. • Mimic of package and closure? Check. • Run description through thesaurus? (Heavenly salad tomatoes vs Miraculously sweet tomatoes) Check. Your argument is as empty as their response release was. Tasty product notwithstanding.

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