(Oct. 26) In a case of déjà vu, is there concern the new slogan “Meat Matters” is trying to steal the thunder from “Fruits & Veggies — More Matters”?

Despite a 2003 challenge from the National Cancer Institute, the dairy industry’s successful bid in 2004 to trademark the “3 a day” message was a bitter pill for some fruit and vegetable advocates.

The NCI and the Wilmington, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation felt at the time that “3 a Day for dairy” unfairly infringed on the 5 a Day trademark, which had been the widely used trademark for generic promotion of fruits and vegetables for more than 10 years.

In the end, the Bethesda, Md.-based NCI and Chicago-based Dairy Management Inc. and its affiliate, the National Dairy Council, announced in March 2004 that the organizations reached an agreement regarding 5 a Day and the dairy group’s 3 a day trademarks. The agreement called for clear identification of the 3 a day affiliation with the dairy groups, when possible.

NEW THREAT?

Now, with the 2007 launch of the Fruits & Veggies — More Matters campaign, there has been notice of a new campaign by the American Meat Institute called “Meat Matters.”

Elizabeth Pivonka, president of PBH, said she became aware of the “Meat Matters” campaign through a recent email.

After limited discussions with PBH officers, Pivonka said it appears the Meat Matters campaign is limited in scope and confined primarily to a Web site.

“From what I can see it is not a big campaign,” she said.

Pivonka said as PBH went through the trademark search for “Fruits and Veggies — More Matters,” it found “more” and “matters” appear frequently in other trademarks.

For another entity to infringe PBH’s marks, the mark in question would have to be nearly identical in text and used in connection with fruits and vegetables, or appear similar graphically, she said.

“If they said ‘Meat — More Matters’ it would have been a problem,” she said. “We would have sent the Federal Trade Commission after them for that because no other (food group) can really say “More Matters,” she said.

Pivonka noted PBH’s use of “More Matters” is not the first use of the “matters” in relation to a food group.

As PBH did its trademark search, it found a dairy group had previous tried “Milk Matters” a couple of years previously to the use of “Fruits & Veggies — More Matters.”

“We didn’t know they were doing that until we went through our trademark search,” she said.

That is not to say the meat campaign is not bothersome, one PBH officer said.

“It is a little disconcerting and frustrating that when we come up with our catchphrase that everybody seems to feel they can play off it, but at this point in time we are going to move forward with More Matters and do the best job with can with that campaign,” said Mike O’Brien, Produce for Better Health chairman and vice president of produce for Schnuck Markets Inc., St. Louis, Mo.

O’Brien and Pivonka said more and more of the “More Matters” brand message is appearing at retail, especially in the produce department but other areas as well.