Mott’s Fights Strikers Via Trademark Law

     (CN) – With its unionized workers on strike for nearly a month, Mott’s sued the UFCW in Federal Court – not directly for labor issues, but for “engaging in and promoting the adulteration and mutilation of labeling for Mott’s food and beverage products.” Mott’s claims the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union tampered with trademarks of its “famous” apple juice and apple sauce products.

     Mott’s, based in Delaware, has its principal plant in Plano, Texas.
     About 300 workers from Mott’s Williamson, N.Y., plant struck on May 23, fighting the company’s attempt to cut pay by $1.50 an hour and charge employees more for health insurance.
     Mott’s claims: “Defendants, including UFCW, have recently embarked on an advertising and promotional campaign which involves creating labels to be affixed to Mott’s packaging, obfuscating, altering and mutilating Mott’s labels for its products. … Defendants also urge that individuals take photos of the altered Mott’s product and publicize the alteration of the Mott’s product on social networking sites like Facebook.”
     Through the UFCW website, supporters can print a sheet with eight bogus labels directing consumers to
     One label states: “In 2009, Mott’s parent company made $555,000 in profits. Now they propose wage cuts of $1.50/hr.”
     A second label states: “2007-2009, Mott’s parent company’s CEO doubled his pay. Now they propose wage cuts of $1.50/hr.”
     The UFCW website also suggests that its supporters “(v)isit your local supermarket and locate Mott’s products. Tape the labels to the products. Be sure not to cover up the Mott’s logo or other text on the containers. Leave them on the shelves where other shoppers can see them.”
     Mott’s 11-page federal complaint, with 9 pages of exhibits, contains no reference to the ongoing labor dispute.
     Mott’s claims: “Defendants’ unlawful activities result in and threaten irreparable harm and injury to Mott’s in that, among other things, defendants deprive Mott’s of its absolute right to determine the manner in which its trademark, trade dress and image is presented to the public through labels for its products; alter packaging relied upon by consumers; deceive the public as to the sponsorship and/or association between Mott’s and defendants, and subjects Mott’s to potential administrative, regulatory or criminal actions resulting from the tampering and/or alteration of Mott’s product and labels.”
     Mott’s claims the fake labels affect interstate commerce and violate federal anti-tampering laws and the Texas health code. Mott’s says it faces irreparable harm unless the UFCW delivers or destroys the labels they plan to use and reveals the existence of any tampered-with Mott’s products.
     Mott’s seeks treble damages, alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition. It is represented by Richard Illmer with Brown McCarroll and Bart Lazar with Seyfarth Shaw of Chicago.

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