THE U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Justice have filed a motion seeking a dismissal of the lawsuit brought by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) over ownership of the "Pork: The Other White Meat" marketing message, or trademark.
The National Pork Board reached an agreement with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) in 2006 to acquire the marketing message from NPPC. Under the deal, the Pork Board agreed to pay NPPC $3 million per year for 20 years, a total of $60 million, for the message (Feedstuffs, March 13, 2006).
The payment was based on the estimated cost for the Pork Board to develop a new marketing message and raise it to the level of recognition that "Other White Meat" had achieved (it's is the fifth-most recognized tagline in advertising).
However, HSUS, in filing its lawsuit last year (Feedstuffs, Oct. 1, 2012), said the Pork Board's annual payment to NPPC represents a violation of the enabling legislation that established the national pork checkoff in 1985. The legislation prohibits checkoff funds from being used for government/public affairs work.
The Pork Board manages the pork checkoff, which collects 40 cents per $100 of value in all swine selling transactions, with funds used for pork advertising and promotion, consumer information, industry research and producer education.
NPPC, which is supported through membership fees and fund-raising events such as the World Pork Expo, is the industry's public affairs arm.
HSUS maintained that the payment channels $3 million of checkoff money per year to NPPC for its lobbying work. HSUS asked the court to void the agreement and require the Pork Board to recover payments to date.
The two agencies' objection was based on HSUS "being outside the zone of interest" of the enabling legislation.
HSUS has filed an objection to the USDA/DOJ request to dismiss, and the agencies have filed a reply to the HSUS objection, Feedstuffs was told on the sidelines at the National Pork Forum in Orlando, Fla., March 9.
The lawsuit is being handled in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, D.C.