Campari Tomato Rights Are Rotten, Farm Says
PECOS, Texas (CN) - Mastronardi Produce wrongfully trademarked campari tomatoes though the name merely reveals variety, a vegetable producer claims in Federal Court.
Village Farms LP, of Heathrow, Fla., sued Mastronardi Produce based on Kingsville, Ontatio, Canada, in the Western District of Texas.
"Despite wide recognition of campari as a variety of tomato, which has been sold as capari by numerous companies in the United States, Canada and the rest of the world, Mastonardi claims trademark rights in the variety name," the 14-page complaint states. "Mastronardi falsely obtained its trademark registration by claiming it had no knowledge of the use of the term as a variety name. Further, Mastronardi falsely advertises and sells varieties of tomatoes grown from seeds other than campari name."
Village Farms allegedly grows authentic campari tomatoes in its Fort Davis and Monahans greenhouses in Texas that are distributed nationwide.
It says the campari variety was developed in the 1990s by Dutch seed company Enza Zaden Worldwide, which then applied for and was granted the variety by the Netherlands Register of Plant Varieties in 1995. No tomatoes of the campari variety were sold in the United States before Enza Zaden's designation, and Enza Zaden first sold the seeds to North American growers in the mid-1990s, according to the complaint.
"Enza Zaden is the sole source of campari variety tomato seeds in the world," the complaint states. "At the time Mastronardi made its first sale of tomatoes using the 'campari' designation, it knew that campari was the name of the variety of tomato seeds it obtained from Enza Zaden, and from which it had grown the campari tomatoes."
Village Farms also accuses Matronardi Produce of misleading consumers by selling less expensive varieties of tomatoes in competition with tomataoes grown from genuine campari seeds, "tarnishing the reputation" of the campari variety.
Mastronardi Produce did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
This is not the first suit over tomato products that Mastronardi Procude has faced in Texas. Last year in Dallas, Naturesweet accused Mastronardi of infringing on its Cherubs tomatoes winged-grape design without authorization.
Village Farms seeks actual and punitive damages for false advertising, trademark fraud and unfair competition, as well as a declaration that the defendant's trademark registration is invalid. It is represented by Werner Powers with Haynes Boone in Dallas and Marsha Hoover with Marshall Gertsein in Chicago.