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USDA seeks dismissal of pork trademarks lawsuit

pork chop
USDA valuation showed trademarks worth between $113 million and $132 million.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) against the agency over the the National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) sale of the "Pork. The Other White Meat" trademarks to the National Pork Board. NPPC sold the trademarks to the Pork Board in 2006 for about $35 million, financing the purchase over 20 years and making the board’s annual payment $3 million.

“The sale was an arm's-length transaction with a lengthy negotiation in which both parties were represented by legal counsel, and USDA — which oversees the federal pork checkoff program administered by the Pork Board — approved the purchase,” NPPC said.

The lawsuit against USDA was filed in 2012 by HSUS, a lone Iowa farmer and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, alleging that the trademarks were overvalued and seeking to have the sale rescinded.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the suit for lack of standing, but a federal appeals court reinstated it in August 2015, sending the case back to the district court. Before any proceedings could proceed on the merits of the lawsuit, however, USDA entered into settlement talks with HSUS.

USDA conducted a valuation of the trademarks, finding the worth between $113 million and $132 million. Despite the nearly four-fold increase in value, HSUS decided, after conducting its own valuation, to continue the lawsuit.

In its a motion for summary judgment filed with U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, NPPC said USDA argued that the HSUS lawsuit lacks merit, is barred by the six-year statute of limitations, that the plaintiffs failed to establish standing to file the lawsuit or show that they were harmed by the sale of the "Pork. The Other White Meat" trademarks and that the agency’s evaluation of the sale of the trademarks showed that they provided significant value to the pork industry.

TAGS: Business
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