An independent review of the popular “Pork. The Other White Meat” and Pork trademarks has breathed new hope into a lawsuit filed in 2012 by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) against USDA alleging the 2006 sale of the trademarks between the National Pork Producers Council and National Pork Board was unlawful.
The $35 million sale price of the trademarks was agreed to by boards from both pork organizations and approved by the Secretary of Agriculture. Payment for the slogan was spaced over 20 years, amounting to $3 million annually.
HSUS felt the trademarks were grossly overvalued. Even though the independent review found the opposite to be true, HSUS will continue to pursue its lawsuit.
Still at issue is how the funds from the Pork Board to NPPC are used. HSUS argued that the sale and payments were unlawful, since the Pork Board is prohibited from using checkoff dollars to influence legislation. Read more.
A judge dismissed the case in 2013; however, a federal appellate court reversed the decision in 2015.
According to USDA, HSUS and USDA entered into a “stipulation agreement” in December, whereby HSUS dismissed the part of its complaint seeking USDA recover the funds already paid to the NPPC under the original agreement. USDA agreed to review the agreement, inviting both HSUS and NPPC to submit information for consideration during the review.
The judge greenlighted the review in January. The authorization of the 2016 payment to the NPPC was dependent on these findings.
USDA worked with the Pork Board to select a company to conduct the independent review, and Stout Risius Ross (SRR) was chosen.
Last week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released the SRR’s findings, which stated the Pork Board did not overpay for the trademarks, as HSUS alleges. SRR concluded that as of Jan. 1, 2016, the investment value of the trademarks is between $113 million and $132 million.
In a statement reiterating the decision, NPPC President John Weber said, “AMS made its decision after a review of the value of the four “Pork. The Other White Meat” trademarks showed they have tremendous recognition and worth.”
Based on these findings, USDA approved the 2016 payments by the Pork Board to the NPPC.Matthew E. Penzer, who has argued the case for the appellants, confirmed to PORK Network that HSUS will continue its legal challenges.
“If the government won’t do the right thing and stop these funds from being unlawfully funneled to a lobbying group to fuel activities harmful to family farmers and animal welfare, then we’ll seek to protect them in court,” he said.
The Department of Justice declined to comment.