AR-News: Relationship sours between creamery, meat producer
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
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
"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.
Cheese only, if you please: Heavy-hitting cheese maker goes to bat for a
name that tens of thousands simply call "home"
Copyright 2004 The Register-Guard
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