A federal judge has ruled against Pittsburgh-based sausage company Parks LLC in the company’s trademark infringement and false advertising case against Tyson Foods Inc. Parks brought the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania over claims that Tyson’s use of the phrase “Park’s Finest” to describe a line of their Ball Park hot dogs was deceptive and infringed upon Parks’ trademark name.
Parks LLC is owned by former running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Hall of Famer, Franco Harris, and Lydell Mitchell, former running back for the Baltimore Colts. The brand has long been recognized for its television commercials that feature a boy begging his mother for “more Parks’ sausages Mom… please.”
In 2014, Tyson Foods Inc and Hillshire Brands Company, co-owners of the “Ball Park” trademark, launched a new line of premium hotdogs under the name “Park’s Finest.” Parks LLC later filed a lawsuit against the companies, charging them with false advertising, trademark infringement, and trademark dilution in violation with the Lanham Act.
The judge ultimately decided in favor of the defendants on all counts, citing Parks’ inability to provide sufficient evidence to prove that Tyson violated the law. In regards to the false advertising charge, the judge concluded that Tyson’s use of “Park’s Finest” was not used to confuse or deceive consumers, but rather functioned as a reference to their Ball Park brand. Furthermore, Parks was unable to show that a substantial number of consumers were actually deceived by the phrase.
Parks’ similarly failed in its attempt to prove trademark infringement. Although Parks did at one time hold federal trademark registrations, those registrations expired sometime between 2003 and 2011. To succeed on a claim of trademark infringement, the company would have to prove that the name “Parks” possesses a secondary meaning. The existence of a secondary meaning is based on a number of factors that lead to buyer association, including: the size of the company; the extent of sales and advertising; the number of customers; the number of sales made under the mark; and actual confusion. The judge concluded that Parks could not prove trademark infringement under those standards.
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For more information about Lanham Act trademark laws and how they relate to your business, call the Philadelphia business litigation lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green today. Our experienced and highly skilled business lawyers handle all types of business litigation. Call 215-574-0600 to arrange a consultation or contact us online.