PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia meat company has a beef with Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc.
Parks LLC is suing Tyson Foods and The Hillshire Brands Co. for trademark infringement and false advertising. The company filed the complaint in US District Court in Pennsylvania Eastern District. Parks claims Tyson and Hillshire appropriated Parks' brand by using "Park's Finest" on Ball Park's brand of premium frankfurters.
“Defendants’ adoption of Parks’ trademark PARKS and use in advertising their products was made with the intention of preempting PARKS and replacing Parks as the recognized owner the PARKS trademark for processed-meat products, including sausage links,” the complaint states.
Tyson said the company is reviewing the complaint and was unable to provide comment.
Parks LLC began as the HG Parks Sausage Company, which was founded in 1950 by Henry G. Parks in Baltimore, Md. For 13 years, Henry Parks led the company through a continuous expansion. 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 after his death in 1989, the company fell into decline. HG Parks Sausage Company went bankrupt in 1995. Former National Football League stars Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell bought the company. The two businessmen later entered into a license agreement with Dietz & Watson, which later moved production of Parks meat products to Philadelphia where production continues today.
The defendants claim Tyson and Hillshire knew about the Parks brand before Ball Park’s launch of Park’s Finest in 2014.
“Defendants and Parks had, prior to 2014, been direct competitors in the sale of processed meats including sausage links, placing their processed meat products side by side in the same supermarkets and other stores,” according to court documents.
When Ball Park launched Park’s Finest, promotions included television, digital, social media, shopper marketing and public relations. Tyson’s decision to expand the Park’s Finest brand to include additional products along with supporting promotions threatens to dilute the Parks trademark, the lawsuit alleges.
“Defendants’ use of the trademark PARK’S FINEST is likely to cause reverse confusion among consumers in that because of their size and overwhelming marketing and advertising resources compared to Parks, consumers may believe that Defendants, the newcomer, not Parks, the original, is the owner of the PARKS trademark,” according to the complaint.