Supreme Court refuses spud case

04/30/2004 12:00:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

(April 30) WASHINGTON, D.C. — The highest court in the land has had its say — for now — in the seven-year legal fight between a New York potato repacker and the Idaho Potato Commission.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced April 26 that it wouldn’t hear the commission’s appeal of a court ruling in its trademark infringement lawsuit it began against M&M Produce Farms & Sales, Goshen, N.Y., in 1997. The lower court had overturned a jury verdict that favored the commission.

The case could be retried as soon as June, lawyers for both sides say.

“The validity of the Idaho potato certification marks will be determined by a jury of its peers,” said M&M attorney Joseph Bainton, a partner with New York-based Bainton McCarthy LLC. “The loss of those marks will end the abusive course of conduct against out-of-state repackers in which the IPC has engaged for years and euphemistically described as a trademark enforcement program.”

Frank Muir, the commission’s president, said he’s not worried about the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case.

“The message from the court was that they we’re not going to hear the case at this time,” he said. “They didn’t say that our case didn’t have any validity to take it to them.”

Since the court normally takes only 80 of the 5,000 cases presented annually to it, the commission’s attorney, Pat Kole, said the commission understood it had a small chance of having the court agree to hear its petition.

He said an appeal made after a trial would be more likely to be heard by the court.

Though a jury had agreed that M&M had used the commission’s certification marks without permission, it also ruled the commission didn’t prove M&M sold other potatoes as Idaho potatoes.



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