AR-News: Relationship sours between creamery, meat producer

jim robertson wolfcrest at hotmail.com
Tue Jan 13 19:41:17 EST 2004


Relationship sours between creamery, meat producer


BAY CITY - For 20 years, Dick Crossley and Tillamook Cheese got along like 
jerky and extra sharp cheddar.
Crossley's Tillamook Country Smoker packaged his jerky with the Tillamook 
County Creamery Association's cheddar. They shared a catalog. Sold jerky in 
the creamery's giant factory. At one point, the smoker's 2-foot-long beef 
stick was the retail outlet's No. 1 seller, he says.

Now, the meat and the cheese aren't getting along so well.

Despite the fact that one of the smoker's owners is a dairy farmer whose 
family belongs to the creamery cooperative, Crossley got a "cease and 
desist" letter from the cheese maker in 2002, ordering him to stop using the 
name "Tillamook."

He'd been using the name since 1975. He'd even gone so far as to make sure 
it'd be OK with the creamery when the business first began. As long as you 
don't make cheese, Crossley was told, everything was fine.

Twenty-five years later, a letter.

And so began a battle for the name that both companies borrowed from the 
county, the city, the valley, the river, and a coastal Indian tribe.

The creamery, the county's second largest employer, is now in a fierce 
trademark battle with the smoker, the county's third largest employer. The 
two companies are a scant few miles apart on Highway 101.

Next month, a federal judge will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit the smoker 
filed against the creamery, after the cheese maker tried to get the meat 
smoker's federal trademark revoked. After selling the creamery more than a 
half-million dollars in smoked meat products over the past 25 years, they've 
been yanked from the shelves. And Crossley can't figure out what to make of 
that.

"If they say it's confusion, I'd be more than happy to put it right on our 
labels - `We don't make cheese,' " Crossley said. "If we lost our name 
today, it'd be like starting a new company."

Creamery CEO Jim McMullen said in December that he couldn't comment on the 
battle with the smoker, since it's in litigation. But a former manager 
confirmed that the two companies used to get along fine.

"These are Tillamook people," said Pete Sutton, of Crossley and his 
partners. "I don't recall there being problems."

But all that changed, Crossley says, as the creamery's old guard changed. 
California farmers bought some farms in Tillamook, influenced the decision 
to turn the creamery into a national player, and decided to try to lock up 
the Tillamook name.

After the cease-and-desist letter, Crossley says he made an effort to 
appease the creamery's demands, agreeing to shrink the size of the word 
"Tillamook" in his company's name. But the creamery wasn't satisfied, he 
says, even though both companies have registered their trademarks federally.

At one point, the creamery tried to register the "Tillamook Cheeseburger," 
and was denied, Crossley said - only the smoker had the right to name meat 
products after Tillamook.

Dairy farmer Bud Gienger said the companies' feud was "like getting a 
divorce." His family is a longtime member of the creamery cooperative and a 
part-owner of the smoker.

"Our new marketing person says the name's valuable," Gienger said. "We want 
that name, and we've got to stop everyone else from using it.

"I think it's too much."

Winston Ross can be reached at (541) 902-9030 or rgcoast at oregonfast.net.

Related:

Cheese only, if you please: Heavy-hitting cheese maker goes to bat for a 
name that tens of thousands simply call "home"

Tillamook Timeline

Copyright 2004 The Register-Guard

http://www.registerguard.com/news/2004/01/12/a1.cheeseside.0112.html

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“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”    - 
Charles Darwin

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