Trademark fight matters for every farm commodity in Idaho, Kole says
By SEAN ELLIS
BOISE -- Lawmakers are fast-tracking an emergency resolution designed to stop a Turkish company's plans to register the "Idaho" label and place it on agricultural products not produced in Idaho.
If successful, the company could undercut Idaho farm products and dilute the Idaho brand, lawmakers were told Jan. 31 by Pat Kole, vice president of legal affairs for the Idaho Potato Commission.
The IPC recently learned that a Turkish company, Beta Agriculture and Trade Co., has filed for registration of the "Idaho" mark with the Turkish Patent Institute.
If successful, the company would exclusively be allowed to sell ag products with the "Idaho" label in Turkey and it would prevent legitimate Idaho products from being sold in Turkey with the "Idaho" mark, Kole said.
The potato commission is fighting the Turkish company's plan on behalf of potato growers and every farm commodity in Idaho, Kole said.
"We're acting on behalf of the state ... to protect the Idaho name so that all producers can use the Idaho brand," Kole told members of the Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee, which unanimously adopted the resolution. "We believe the word 'Idaho' should be able to be used only by somebody who is selling genuine Idaho products."
"If I'm a guy in Blackfoot or Coeur d'Alene, I should be able to sell my product as being from Idaho," he said. "But if I'm from New York, I shouldn't be able to sell my New York product as being from Idaho."
He said Idaho's farming community is also concerned that inferior products passed off as Idaho products could diminish the value of the Idaho brand.
The patent could affect all types of ag commodities, including sugar beets, potatoes, livestock, dairy, horticultural products, seed, eggs and malt, Kole said.
It has always been the policy of the state to protect the "Idaho" mark and the state has been successful in litigation efforts to prevent others from infringing on that label, said Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, chairman of the Senate ag committee and a retired potato and grain farmer.
"The committee was very supportive of this," he said. "Everybody understands the importance of being able to brand Idaho products. When you stick the Idaho brand on a product, there is an expectation of higher quality."
The resolution, which was passed by the full Senate later in the day, is sponsored by Bair and Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, a rancher and chairman of the House Agricultural Affairs Committee.
The resolution would express to the Turkish government and Turkish Patent Institute that "it is the policy of the state of Idaho that the name 'Idaho' should only be used with Idaho products," Kole said. "It would be a message that our name is not for sale."
The deadline to file opposition papers with the patent institute is Feb. 12 and the resolution is being moved quickly though the Idaho Legislature, which is suspending normal rules so it can be sent quickly.