The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit last week granted the National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) motion to intervene in a lawsuit The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) brought against the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the sale of four trademarks associated with the “Pork. The Other White Meat” slogan.
The decision came two weeks after USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) decided that it would continue to approve the National Pork Board’s annual payments for the trademarks.
NPPC sold the trademarks to the Pork Board in 2006 for approximately $35 million. NPPC financed the purchase over 20 years, making the Pork Board’s annual payment $3 million. The sale included a lengthy negotiation in which both parties were represented by legal counsel. USDA, which oversees the federal pork checkoff program administered by the Pork Board, approved the purchase.
In 2012, HSUS, one Iowa farmer and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement filed suit against USDA, seeking to have the sale rescinded. The U.S. district court dismissed the suit for lack of standing, but a federal appeals court in August 2015 reinstated it. Subsequently, USDA agreed to review the purchase, including conducting a valuation of the trademarks.
A third-party assessment deemed the four trademarks worth between $113 million and $132 million, but HSUS is pressing forward with its lawsuit. HSUS claims that the trademarks are only worth between about $2.6 million and $17.6 million.