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Idaho Fry no, Boise Fry yes

No doubt to the relief of the Idaho Fry Company’s people, and to their customers (they produce some good eats), that firm has reached a settlement with the Idaho Potato Commission over the disputed use of the business’ name. It will henceforth be the Boise Fry Company; the IPC evidently will underwrite the name change. (For more, see our post on June 6.) Presumably, the growers and processors of the Gem State’s tubers are now safe.

Considering the hailstorm that descended on the commission after word about its challenge to the small restaurant’s name got out, the commission is probably just as relieved. Doubtless its people never intended to be, or saw themselves as, legal bullies. They have the (legitimate) job of protecting Idaho potato growers’ investment in their good name, and that’s what they thought they were doing.

But then, what we see as the key point here really isn’t about the potato commission: It is about a series of interpretations of trademark and related law, from coast to coast, that amounts to a real threat to several types of liberty in this country, and that’s a point we’ve come back to in a variety of past posts and doubtless will again. When that last post made the point that, under the commission’s logic, the Idaho Statesman newspaper might run afoul of it (and maybe have to remove the Idaho from its name) if potato chips are sold in its vending machines, the point wasn’t simple sarcasm: It had to do with a reach of the law run completely amok.

Settlements or not in this case, that serious point remains, with a reach well beyond the Idaho Potato Commission.

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