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Use of Kosher Symbol on Organic Milk Not, Well, Kosher

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MOOMilk Co. A Maine organic dairy is facing a lawsuit over the use of the letter “u” in a circle, which the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America uses to certify kosher foods.

The organization has filed a lawsuit against Maine’s Own Organic Milk Co. (MOOMilk) requesting that the dairy stop using the symbol and pay damages for trademark infringement.

For its part, MOOMilk is looking to settle the lawsuit without ever moooving into the courtroom.

According to the Boston Herald, William Eldridge, the dairy’s executive director, has admitted that “[w]e definitely have the symbol on there without having paid our annual fees — that’s as simple and cut and dried as I can make it.”

The “kosher” designation applied by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America is used to denote foods that conform to the regulations of the Jewish law, meaning they are “proper or acceptable” to be eaten. The organization’s website provides information on how a product can become certified as kosher, and the process includes paying a fee.

The Union’s “u” is a classic example of a subset of trademarks called “certification marks.” When used on goods or services, a certification mark tells the consuming public that a particular person or group has certified the good or service as conforming to a particular set of standards. Unlike the trademarks most people think of, then, certification marks do not act as “source indicators,” but are more like “quality indicators.”

The Union’s complaint alleges that the dairy has been using the encircled “u” on its packaging since at least June 2010, when the Union sent MOOMilk an email notifying the dairy that it was infringing on the Union’s trademark. Although MOOMilk began the process of becoming certified as kosher through the Union, the company ran into financial difficulties and didn’t pay the required fee. At that point, the Union alleges, MOOMilk agreed to stop using the encircled “u” on its packaging when the existing stock ran out. But then last month, the union discovered the dairy was still using the symbol and filed suit.

MOOMilk is still hoping to gain certification, use “u” symbol, and continue “to educate the consuming public on the value and intrinsic worth of preserving the local family farm while developing a line of premium quality milk products that support this mission” — this time with the Union’s blessing.

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April 18th, 2012 at 2:36 pm