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A Wisconsin creamery selling "Irishgold" butter and the distributor of Kerrygold butter have agreed to a consent decree that will end a trademark dispute. Ornua Foods N. Am. v. Eurogold USA, No. 17-0510 (E.D. Wis., motion filed July 25, 2017). After Wisconsin began enforcing a 1950s law requiring all butter sold in the state to bear a state or federal grade mark, effectively banning all imports and out-of-state artisanal products, Wisconsin dairy Old World Creamery began selling its own butter in packaging similar to Kerrygold. Additional details about the ban and trademark suit appear in Issue 631 of this Update. Under the consent decree, the dairy will (i) continue to sell its Irish-style butter but will amend the mark to “Euro Gold” or “Euro-Gold"; (ii) withdraw its trademark application for “Irishgold” butter; (iii) refrain from using “substantially similar” packaging; (iv) not sell any Irish-themed dairy products under a mark that…

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that plant-­based products cannot use milk­- or dairy-­related terms for product names or in marketing because the terms are “exclusively” reserved for animal-­milk products under EU law. Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb eV v. Tofu Town.com GmbH, Case C­ 422/16 (order entered June 14, 2017). Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb eV, a German trade group, asked a regional German court for an injunction against Tofu Town, a producer of vegetarian and vegan products marketed with names such as “veggie cheese,” “Soyatoo tofu butter” and “rice spray cream.” The regional court referred the dispute to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. The court found that EU Regulation 1308/2013 reserves the term “milk” for animal-­derived products such as cheese, cream, butter, yogurt and kefir, and further, non­-bovine products must specify the animal species from which the milk originates because the regulation defines milk as the product…

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint arguing an advertisement for Arla Foods’ organic milk was misleading because it included the statements “Good for the land” and “helping support a more sustainable future.” ASA reviewed evidence the company provided about its organic farming methods but concluded that the dairy had failed to substantiate its claim that organic milk production has an “overall positive impact on the environment, taking into account its full life cycle.” Accordingly, the agency ruled that the ad was misleading and told Arla not to make environmental claims about their products unless they could be substantiated.   Issue 637

The Second Circuit has upheld the $50­ million settlement of an alleged milk price-­fixing conspiracy, holding that “[b]y their nature, settlements are compromises that do not provide either side with all that they might have hoped to obtain in litigation.” Haar v. Allen, No. 16­1944 (2d Cir., order entered April 18, 2017). The class action asserted that Dairy Farmers of America, Inc., Dairy Marketing Services and Dean Foods Co. conspired to suppress competition and fix prices of raw milk in the Northeast. The appellants argued that the settlement was the result of collusion between class counsel and opposing counsel and that members of the class were coerced into participation. The Second Circuit disagreed, finding the appellants confused “counsel’s willingness to negotiate in good faith toward a settlement with collusion,” noting that the district court found no evidence of impropriety after a lengthy hearing into claims of misconduct. The court also…

An Ohio company has filed a lawsuit alleging Wisconsin’s ban on sales of ungraded butter violates the Commerce Clause, due process, equal protection and free speech. Minerva Dairy, Inc. v. Brancel, No. 17­299 (W.D. Wis., filed April 20, 2017). In early 2017, Wisconsin began enforcing a 1954 law requiring all butter sold in the state to bear either a state or a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grade mark, telling retailers and producers to remove out­-of-­state butter from store shelves or risk fines and imprisonment. Minerva Dairy, Inc. argues that the ban serves no rational or legitimate governmental interest. “In contrast to butter inspection, which ensures that the butter comports with health and safety regulations, butter grades are used only to ensure a government-­mandated taste,” the complaint argues. Minerva alleges that small companies are unable to afford obtaining USDA grading and creating separate labels solely for Wisconsin sales. Accordingly, the…

President Donald Trump has indicated that he will attempt to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement after making several negative comments about Canada's dairy pricing. The dispute centers on ultra-filtered milk, a product used in the production of cheese that U.S. dairy farmers previously sold to Canadian companies. After Canadian dairy farmers in Ontario dropped their prices low enough to compete with U.S. farmers, many Canadian cheesemakers canceled contracts with their U.S. suppliers to pursue the Ontario farmers' supply. Trump tweeted, “We will not stand for this,” and later announced that he will attempt to renegotiate the trade agreement with Canada. See USA Today, April 25, 2017; Washington Post, April 27, 2017.   Issue 632

The Irish distributor of Kerrygold butter won an emergency restraining order against a Wisconsin creamery after alleging the creamery backed out of an agreement to process Kerrygold locally and later created its own nearly identical product, “Irishgold,” infringing Kerrygold’s trademark. Ornua Foods N. Am., Inc. v. Eurogold USA LLC, No. 17­0510 (E.D. Wis., filed April 10, 2017). A Wisconsin federal court granted the order after finding Ornua Foods, Kellygold’s maker, likely to win the trademark case it filed on the merits. After Kerrygold became the top-­selling imported butter in the United States, Wisconsin removed Kerrygold butter from stores under a statute requiring all butter sold in the state to bear either a Wisconsin or federal grade mark. After the ban, Ornua Foods began working with Wisconsin state officials and defendant Old World Creamery to process the Irish-­made butter a second time, making it eligible for a state grade mark. The…

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has obtained a consent decree against Valley Milk Products LLC prohibiting the sale of more than four million pounds of milk powder products and preventing the company from manufacturing the products in the future. U.S. v. All 50 pound high heat nonfat dry milk powder (Grade A), No. 16-­0076, (W.D. Va., order entered March 17, 2017). DOJ seized dry milk and dry buttermilk products at the company’s Strasburg, Virginia, facility in November 2016 after FDA inspections found unsanitary conditions and confirmed samples of Salmonella and Listeria. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Salmonella strains were “nearly identical” to strains found at Strasburg in 2010, 2011 and 2013, indicating “the existence of persistent/resident strain and harborage” of the bacteria at the facility. DOJ also alleged the products were “contaminated with filth” after inspectors found dark brown droplets forming on metal surfaces of…

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has overturned a Florida court's summary judgment against Ocheesee Creamery, finding that the company can sell its milk product as skim milk despite its refusal to follow a Florida law requiring skim milk to be fortified with vitamin A. Ocheesee Creamery LLC v. Putnam, No. 16-­12049 (11th Cir., order entered March 20, 2017). Additional details on the lower court's rulings appear in Issues 555 and 599 of this Update. Florida initially told Ocheesee that it could sell its skim milk as "imitation skim milk," but Ocheesee objected to the description of its natural, unfortified milk as "imitation." Ocheesee rejected other suggested labels as well, including "Non­-Grade 'A' Milk Product, Natural Milk Vitamins Removed," then filed a lawsuit asserting a First Amendment right to describe its product as "skim milk." The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Florida, finding that…

The widow of a Vermont man who died after eating raw­milk cheese allegedly contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes has filed suit against the manufacturer of the cheese, Vulto Creamery. Friedman v. Vulto Creamery LLC, No. 17­-0283 (N.D.N.Y., filed March 10, 2017). Vulto issued a recall of its Ouleout, Miranda, Heinennellie and Willowemoc raw-­milk cheeses in March 2017 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration identified Ouleout as the source of a Listeria outbreak that began in September 2016. The complaint asserts that multiple people became ill or died after eating Vulto’s Ouleout. For alleged strict liability, breach of warranty, negligence and negligence per se, the plaintiff is seeking damages and attorney’s fees.   Issue 627

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