Legal battle intensifies over Campari tomato

10/31/2008 12:00:00 AM
Ashley Bentley

(Oct. 31, 2:12 p.m.) A little tomato is causing a big stir in the greenhouse industry.

Despite recent claims by Mastronardi Produce Ltd., Kingsville, Ontario, that it has signed a long-term deal as exclusive North American grower and marketer of Campari cocktail tomatoes, the other marketers of the tomato, Eurofresh Farms, Willcox, Ariz., and Village Farms LP, Eatontown, N.J., plan to continue to carry the variety.

In early September, Mastronardi announced the exclusive agreement with the Dutch seed company that developed the campari seed in the mid-1990s, Enza Zaden.

The claim met opposition from the other two greenhouse companies marketing the variety, after Mastronardi continued to make the claim in the days before the Oct. 24-27 Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit, where it displayed the Camparis.

That sparked a response from Village Farms chief executive officer Mike DeGiglio, who issued a statement Oct. 22, referring to recent movement in a trademark dispute against Mastronardi. While Mastronardi still retains the “Campari” trademark, DeGiglio alleged the company obtained it fraudulently because the trademark application didn’t identify Campari as a variety name.

DeGiglio declined to comment on the record when contacted by The Packer.

Mastronardi applied for a trademark for the Campari name in 2003, which is the same year the company unveiled the tomato variety in its booth at PMA. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued the trademark Jan. 3, 2006. No opposition was filed against the request — until four months later.

Westgro Sales Inc., the exclusive marketer of Enza Zaden greenhouse vegetable seeds to the Western U.S. and Canada, filed a motion to cancel Mastronardi’s trademark on the name Campari in May 2006.

Enza Zaden, not Mastronardi, named the seed when the company developed it, said Rob Keene, Enza Zaden’s director of export.

“When the variety was born in the mid-90s, you have to register a name to sell it, and we registered it under the name campari,” he said.

Keene would not say whether Mastronardi has a new agreement to be the exclusive North American marketer of the tomato.

“We do have an exclusive agreement with Enza for the North American market,” said Chris Veillon, marketing manager for Mastronardi, on Oct. 30.

Houweling Nurseries, Oxnard, Calif., was the first North American grower of the variety in 1996 and marketed it through BC Hot House Foods Inc., Vancouver, said Dave Gingrich, vice president and general manager of Westgro. Eurofresh joined BC Hot House in late 2002 as a marketer of the variety. Westgro distributed the campari seeds to both growers.


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