Grange, Tyson Foods play 'chicken' with name

The way some Sequim Prairie Grange members see it, their group has spent more than 140 years building the Grange's good name.

And they'll hardly stand by when some company comes along and tries to use that name to sell chicken, beef and pork.

Tyson Foods, Inc., filed a petition in April 2007 for exclusive commercial use of the name "Grange and Grassland" to market a new line of retail meat products.

The concern, Grange members say, is that Tyson Foods is using the term "Grange" in such products to piggyback off the goodwill and reputation Grangers have in communities across the nation for their own profit, when there is no association between the two entities.

"If they end up being able to use the name Grange, anytime we have a pancake breakfast we can't make any reference to the name," said Fred Grant, Sequim Prairie Grange president.

"I just think it's a good name and they want it. This could affect every Grange in every state in the union. That's ours; it's not right to take our name."

Tyson Foods' petition drew interest and now a legal challenge from the National Grange in February 2008. National Grange representatives asked Grangers across the country to help fight the Arkansas-based meat company in court.

Gary Mickelson, spokesman for Tyson Foods, Inc., said the company chose the word grange because it is defined as "a farm with a farmhouse and buildings nearby."

"(It's) the kind of setting where much of the livestock we process are raised," Mickelson said. "Our selection had nothing to do with the farm organization known as the National Grange."

In a letter from the National Grange board of directors, Grangers asserted a name trademark could affect Grange-sponsored community events including catered banquets; civic dinners, breakfasts and picnics; farmer's markets; Grange member-operated food booths at fairs, parades and garden shows, etc.; Grange-operated community kitchens; cook book sales and more.

"We respectfully disagree and are defending our position," Mickelson said.

"We asked to register the Grange and Grassland mark because of its association with farms, not to trade off any public goodwill associated with the National Grange organization."

Grant said that other companies have tried to use the Grange name but backed down from using it after being contacted by concerned Grangers.

Not so this time, Grant said.

"They haven't had quite the kind of money Tyson has," Grant said.

"(Tyson Foods officials) have got all these big, important lawyers. We have to fight."

Sequim Prairie Grange boasts about 209 local members, part of the 40,000-50,000 Grange members in Washington state - more members than any other state.

Grant said that the Sequim Prairie Grange members agreed to send $300 to fight Tyson Foods.

"We're just very upset about it," Grange member Bob Clark said.

"We may be a small organization but we're a national organization."

Grange, Tyson

Foods factoids

The Grange or "The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry," as it was originally known, is an organization started by American farmers that encourages families to band together for economic and political well-being. Founded in 1867 after the Civil War, it lays claim to being the oldest surviving agricultural organization in the United States. As of 2005, the Grange claimed 300,000 members in 3,600 communities across 37 states, the most in Washington.

Despite a reported drop in membership of about 40 percent in the past 15 years, Grange members continue to fight for farmer causes, including free trade and farm policy issues.

Tyson Foods, Inc., was founded in 1935 and has headquarters in Springdale, Ark. Tyson is the world's largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork, the second-largest food production company in the Fortune 500 and a member of the S&P 500. The company sells products to customers in more than 90 countries.

Fighting for a name

Owners of Olympic Cellars Winery faced a similar problem in 2008 when they fought a nine-month legal battle with the U.S. Olympic Committee - and won - use of the term "Olympic" in the company name and Web site.

Businesses around the Olympic Peninsula have been getting letters from the committee for years. In September 2007, winery owners received a letter from the committee asking them to relinquish the word "Olympic" less than three years before the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.

As it stands now, winery owners can distribute as much wine as they can under that name in the state of Washington west of the Cascade Mountains. They also can sell wine east of the Cascades if the sales are not determined to be "substantial."

Kathy Charlton, co-owner of Olympic Cellars Winery, said the nearly yearlong fight was worth it.

"The first few letters (from the USOC) that went back and forth (were) basically putting me out of business," Charlton said.

"They were going to make me stay so local I would have to close my doors."

She said she found most of her support through advice from a local trademark attorney, well-timed press releases through media and individuals who care about the Olympic Peninsula region.

"I just didn't want to give up," Charlton said.

"I was very fortunate to have support and guidance and counsel. We just kept working it."

The winery co-owner said she could empathize with Grange members.

"This is the heart of America and they want to take that name to sell a product," Charlton said. "That infuriates me and I think that would infuriate the public."

The National Grange

Date formed: Dec. 4, 1867

Members: 300,000

Communities: 3,600

Washington members: 40,000

Sequim Prairie Grange members: 209

Grange goals:

_ Develop recreational facilities

_ Provide agricultural safety education

_ Organize volunteer fire departments

_ Find medical doctors for rural areas

_ Conduct first-aid classes

_ Buy telecommunication devices for the deaf

_ Develop individual talent and leadership

_ Organize traveling art exhibitions

_ Build community medical facilities

_ Represent members before government bodies

_ Develop community water systems

_ Sponsor educational and informational programs

Michael Dashiell can be reached at miked@sequim

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