Idaho Fry Co. in Boise
Over a good many years, several key Idaho people and organizations did something unusual and remarkable and that wouldn't have happened by itself: They developed a specific commercial identity for Idaho potatoes, as products of particular quality and therefore worthy of higher price. There's some real value in that, and some commercial need to protect it.
What might threaten it? If the quality of the state's potatoes were to be diminished, that might hurt. So might false claims from someone else, a producer in some other state who labeled products from there as Idaho potatoes - that would inflate the size of the crop sold under the label, and might damage the quality levels. The Idaho Potato Commission has each of these possibilities seriously over the years in the defense of Idaho potato growers and protection of their long-term investment in brand building: If you're going to sell something as an "Idaho potato," you have to meet certain standards and follow certain rules, and there are legal avenues for enforcement.
There appears to be, generally, some clarity about that. On its website, the Potato Commission specifies "Who Should License With Us," and lists three criteria:
Any company or individual packing fresh Idaho® potatoes. This is required by Idaho statute.
Any company, organization, or individual intending to use trademarks or certification marks owned or administered by the Idaho Potato Commission. This is required by Idaho statutes and Federal trademark law.
Any container manufacturer or company who reproduces IPC's trademarks or certification marks.
Which seems reasonable enough. How the Idaho Fry Co. fits any of that can be explained only by a wild imagination or by a very creative trademark lawyer.
This business is a small restaurant (allowing takeout) located not far from downtown in Boise (even closer to the Potato Commission's offices). Its focus is on potatoes, to be sure - French fries specifically, which are sold in a variety of formats (thick, stringy, curly, fixed with various oils, and so on), and loving attention seems to be paid to them. The burgers, and other foods, really are "on the side."
Although they're potatoes, there's no statement anywhere we could see, outside the store, inside, on menus, on line, that any of these are Idaho potatoes. In fact, considering the variety of potatoes used, a number of them probably couldn't be Idaho in origin. The "Idaho" in "Idaho Fry" clearly refers to the geographic location of the store. It does not pack potatoes and it does not use any Idaho potato trademarks (see the criteria above).
All of that notwithstanding, the IPC has loosed the legal dogs against the Fry Company: "a business card was slipped beneath our door with this cryptic message scribbled on the back: 'Blake – This name is a problem. Idaho™ is our trade name.'” (more…)