Category Archives 4th Circuit

Snyder's-Lance Inc. has voluntarily dismissed a lawsuit seeking to appeal a decision holding that it could not trademark "Pretzel Crisps" as a name for its product, which Frito-Lay North America Inc. had challenged before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Snyder's-Lance Inc. v. Frito-Lay N. Am. Inc., No. 21-1758 (4th Cir., filed August 31, 2021). The dismissal concludes years-long litigation disputing whether the "Pretzel Crisps" mark was too generic to be registered. An appeal of a lower court's ruling that the term is generic had been pending until Snyder's-Lance's voluntary dismissal.

A consumer has filed a lawsuit alleging that she became ill after eating a chicken salad containing “hard, gray-colored granules” with a “foul odor and taste” at a location of Bojangles Famous Chicken 'n Biscuits. Green v. Bojangles Restaurants, Inc., No. 17-2936 (D.S.C., removed to federal court October 30, 2017). The plaintiff asserts that she ordered a Roasted Chicken Bites salad that contained the granules, which she ate because she purportedly thought they were pieces of feta cheese. The plaintiff contends that she immediately became ill and vomited at the restaurant, while her husband took the granules to the restaurant owner, who apparently indicated he would have them tested at a laboratory. The plaintiff also argues that after the incident, she developed “nodules or growths” in her throat that remained for about 18 months. Claiming strict liability, breach of implied warranty, negligence, negligence per se and loss of consortium, the plaintiff…

Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. has filed a lawsuit in North Carolina federal court appealing a Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) ruling that found the term “Pretzel Crisps” to be generic, arguing that TTAB “failed to consider all the evidence of the public’s perception of the Pretzel Crisps brand, despite clear direction from the Federal Circuit to do so.” Snyder’s-Lance, Inc. v. Frito-Lay N. Am., Inc., No. 17-0652 (W.D.N.C., filed November 6, 2017). TTAB initially deemed “pretzel crisps” generic after Frito-Lay opposed Snyder's-Lance’s application for a trademark; that decision was vacated by the Federal Circuit and remanded for reconsideration. Snyder's-Lance argues that during seven years of litigation, its Pretzel Crisps brand has become a market leader and is now the “number one product in the entire ‘deli cracker’ section in which it principally competes." The complaint also asserts that “both Frito-Lay and the TTAB panel agreed that ‘pretzel crackers’ generically and appropriately…

Food & Water Watch has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Farm Service Agency seeking vacatur of agency decisions that guaranteed loans and allowed construction of a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in the Choptank River watershed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Food & Water Watch v. United States Dep’t of Agric., No. 17-1714 (D.D.C., filed August 23, 2017). The CAFO is located upstream from the Chesapeake Bay, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and surrounding states have undertaken extensive agricultural pollution cleanup efforts. Among other allegations, the complaint asserts that USDA’s environmental assessment found that the CAFO’s density would conform to industry standards but that the actual density is nearly double those standards, resulting in higher-than-average waste concentration, air and water pollution. The plaintiff argues that the agencies (i) failed to consider adequate alternatives; (ii) failed to address biological resources, groundwater, surface water or…

Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service over the agencies’ denial of the group’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests asking for the names of companies that opted to participate in the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS). Food & Water Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., No. 17­-1133 (D.D.C., filed June 9, 2017). USDA implemented the optional NPIS in an effort to reduce rates of foodborne illness attributable to chicken and turkey contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter. Food & Water Watch requested the identities of the companies that chose to participate in NPIS, but their FOIA requests were denied on the grounds that “the responsive records consist solely of confidential future business plans.” Alleging violations of FOIA, the plaintiff is seeking an order for disclosure of the requested records and attorney’s…

A Maryland consumer alleges that when she used coupons offering a free sandwich with the purchase of an initial sandwich, Burger King locations in Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia and Florida charged her more than they would have if she had purchased sandwiches without the coupons. Anderson v. Burger King, No. 17-­1204 (D. Md., filed May 2, 2017). The complaint asserts that Burger King’s coupon promotion offers a “free” sausage, egg and cheese breakfast “Croissan’wich” to customers who buy one Croissan’wich at the regular price. The plaintiff claims she went to a Maryland location, presented a coupon and was charged $3.19 for the two sandwiches she received. She later purchased a single sandwich and was charged only $2.16, the complaint alleges. She found similar results at locations in (i) the District of Columbia, where the two coupon sandwiches cost $4.61 and the single sandwich cost $1; (ii) Virginia, where…

A federal court has ruled that three environmental groups lack standing to intervene in a lawsuit to block implementation of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program. Alfa Int’l Seafood v. Ross, No. 17­0031 (D.D.C., order entered April 17, 2017). The court held that the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity failed to establish concrete or particularized injuries “fairly traceable” to the possible vacating of the proposed program, known as the Seafood Traceability Rule. Even if they could, the court found, the groups still had not made a minimal showing that defendant U.S. Department of Commerce was unable to adequately represent their interests in the case. The groups argued that the new administration “might adopt policies that negatively affect the force of the Rule,” but Commerce reported that it supported the program. The court also dismissed the groups’ disagreements with Commerce about the program’s scope and timing…

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…

Three environmental and conservation advocacy groups have moved to intervene in a lawsuit filed by a group of seafood processing, distribution and retail companies to block implementation of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program. Alfa Int’l Seafood, Inc. v. Sullivan, No. 17-­0031 (D.D.C., motion filed March 7, 2017). Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity are asking to defend the oversight program, known as the Seafood Traceability Rule, which gives the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration power over stringent reporting and recordkeeping of fish catches, vessel and species identification, names of buyers and other chain-­of-­custody information. The National Marine Fisheries Service published the rule in December 2016 to combat U.S. imports of seafood alleged to be the product of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, along with fraudulent practices such as mislabeling of species.   Issue 627

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s determination that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had the discretion to issue an incorrect contamination warning about Salmonella-tainted tomatoes, which devalued a tomato farmer’s crop by $15 million. Seaside Farm v. United States, No. 15-2562 (4th Cir., order entered December 2, 2016). Details about the lower court’s decision appear in Issue 588 of this Update. The lawsuit stemmed from FDA’s warning against eating raw tomatoes in 2008 following an outbreak of Salmonella that was later traced to jalapeno and Serrano peppers. Seaside Farm filed suit alleging FDA negligently issued the warning, impairing the value of its crop. The trial court found that FDA was acting within its discretion to issue the warning. Seaside argued that FDA’s warning was overly broad and based on insufficient evidence, noting that the agency failed to test any tomatoes before issuing its…

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