Source: National Pork Producers Council
The USDA this week filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Humane Society of the U.S. against the agency over the sale by the NPPC to the National Pork Board of the Pork, The Other White Meat trademarks. NPPC sold the trademarks to the Pork Board in 2006 for about $35 million. It financed the purchase over 20 years, making the Pork Board’s annual payment $3 million. The sale was an arms-length transaction with a lengthy negotiation in which both parties were represented by legal counsel, and USDA, which oversees the federal Pork Checkoff program administered by the Pork Board, approved the purchase.
In 2012, the HSUS, a lone Iowa farmer and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement filed suit against the USDA, claiming the trademarks were overvalued and seeking to have the sale rescinded. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the suit for lack of standing, but a federal appeals court in August 2015 reinstated it, sending the case back to the District Court. Before any proceedings on the merits of the lawsuit, USDA inexplicably entered into settlement talks with the HSUS. USDA conducted a valuation of the trademarks, finding their current worth is between $113 million and $132 million.
Despite the nearly four-fold increase in value, the HSUS decided to continue its lawsuit. In its motion for summary judgment filed with U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit, the USDA argues that the HSUS lawsuit lacks merit, is barred by the six-year statute of limitations, that the plaintiffs failed to establish standing to file the lawsuit or show that they were harmed by the sale of the Pork. The Other White Meat trademarks and that the agency’s evaluation of the sale of the trademarks showed they provided significant value to the pork industry.