The lawsuit filed Monday by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) against the U.S. secretary of agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the purchase by the National Pork Board of "The Other White Meat" registered trademark challenges the legitimate purchase of a valuable business asset, National Pork Board Chief Executive Officer Chris Novak said.
"I find it unusual that HSUS is filing suit now over a decision that was made and approved more than six years ago," Novak said.
The board purchased the trademark in 2006 from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), which created the trademark prior to the formation of the National Pork Board in 1986. The National Pork Board subsequently assumed all marketing responsibilities for pork. The sale price, agreed to by both boards and approved by the secretary of agriculture, was $35 million. NPPC agreed to finance the payments over 20 years, making the payment from the National Pork Board $3 million annually.
"'The Other White Meat' is an incredibly valuable asset, which is why the board in 2006 took steps to assure it would always be owned by pork producers," Novak said. "In 2000, Northwestern University conducted a study that determined that The Other White Meat was one of the five most recognizable taglines in contemporary advertising. So it was important to producers that it be protected," Novak added.
And even though the board has transitioned its advertising to another tagline, Novak said, it continues to use The Other White Meat. It will be featured by the National Pork Board this month at meetings of the American Dietetic Association and with the National Pork Board's Advisory Panel of Retail Dietitians.
The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at www.pork.org.