Tyson Foods prevails in trademark dispute

by Erica Shaffer
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A federal judge dismisses an appeal of a ruling rejecting the lawsuit filed by Parks.
PHILADELPHIA – The 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld a district court ruling dismissing a trademark infringement and false advertising lawsuit filed by Parks LLC against Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc. and The Hillshire Brands Co. Pittsburgh-based Parks challenged the use of the mark “Park’s Finest” to describe Ball Park brand premium hot dogs.

The ruling was filed under seal while parties to the lawsuit decide if portions of the opinion should be redacted. The court will determine whether to accept the proposed redactions and will unseal the opinion in some form.

In 2015, Parks filed a trademark infringement and false advertising lawsuit against Tyson and The Hillshire Brands Co. on allegations of appropriating a brand owned by Parks by using “Park’s Finest” on Ball Park’s brand of premium hot dogs. Parks, which was owned by former NFL stars Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell, claimed in the lawsuit that Tyson and Hillshire knew about the Parks brand before Ball Park’s launch of Park’s Finest in 2014.

But in May 2016, federal Judge Joseph Leeson, Jr. ruled that “no reasonable factfinder could find in Parks’ favor from the evidence the parties have presented.” Parks appealed the ruling.

Parks LLC began as the HG Parks Sausage Co., which was founded in 1950 by Henry G. Parks in Baltimore, Maryland. The company later became famous as the first black-owned corporation to be listed on an American stock exchange — the New York Stock Exchange 1969.

But the company began to decline after Parks died, and eventually fell into bankruptcy in 1995. Harris and Mitchell would later acquire the company. The two businessmen entered into a license agreement with Dietz & Watson. The company is now based in Pittsburgh.

The case is Parks LLC v. Tyson Foods Inc et al, 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-2768.
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