Ninth Circuit Court Sides with Smoked Meats Over Cheese

tillamook cheeseHere's an update in the ongoing saga of the Tillamook County Creamery trademark case against former friend, now arch rival Tillamook Country Smoker (TCS). Let's review the events that have transpired so far: Tillamook's quixotic journey through the land of trademark litigation began when it sued smoked meat purveyor TCS  for its use of the name "Tillamook," which the Creamery trademarked as early as 1921. I've discussed this issue several times before (see here). Trademark law says that if you want to protect a trademark, you have to vigorously defend it, and that's the basic philosophy driving Tillamook's lawsuit. In 2004, a federal district court ruled against the Creamery. The Creamery appealed, and last week, a 9th circuit panel again ruled against the Creamery, saying that the claim of trademark infringement was not warranted because the Creamery waited too long to make the claim.

You can read the entire 9th circuit opinion here if you're so inclined.  You can tell that things aren't going to go well for Tillamook (the cheesemaker) right away in the first line. . ."The Tillamook County Creamery Association, the maker of the Tillamook brand of cheese for nearly a hundred years, has a beef (har har) with a company called Tillamook Country Smoker, a purveyor of smoked meats and jerky."  You can read farther into the opinion if want to immerse yourself in the arcane legal doctrine of "laches," but ultimately Tillamook was a day late and a dollar short on its lawsuit because it waited until the late 1990s to oppose TCS's use of the name "Tillamook" even though it knew of, and even encouraged and nurtured, TCS's business from TCS's inception. In addition, the court says that the Creamery's lawyers effectively admitted this during discovery. . .here's hoping that a first year associate at  Chernoff, Vilhauer, McClung & Stenzel isn't being drawn and quartered for that mistake.

(Thanks to Sparky for the witty headline)