The state of Wisconsin is known as "America's Dairyland," so how did it end up being in the center of a trademark case about . . . Irish butter?
Recently, Sheboygan, Wisconsin-based Old World Creamery starting selling imported Irish butter using the brand name irishgold. Within days of Irishgold’s introduction, the trademark owners of Kerrygold Irish butter — Dublin’s Ornua — filed a suit against Old World Creamery for trademark infringement and false advertising. And now a federal judge has prohibited Old World Creamery from selling its Irishgold brand of butter while it’s being sued for trademark infringement.
So did it come about that Irish butter is being produced in Wisconsin? First, some interesting details about butter. All butter must be graded. “Grading” is a mandatory taste test done by the government to assess a butter’s texture and aroma. Every butter gets a letter grade that has to be displayed on the package. And all of that is important in this case, because a decades-old Wisconsin law bans the sale of all butters produced outside the United States. To get around the law, Old World Creamery imports Irishgold butter from Ireland, processes and packages it in the United States, and has it graded by state-licensed graders in Wisconsin. Since Kerrygold butter is graded in Ireland, it’s illegal to sell it in Wisconsin.
Fortune writes that the two companies had been negotiating a deal to sell Kerrygold butter under the Irishgold brand in Wisconsin, but the talks were unsuccessful and ended a few months ago. Subsequently, Old World Creamery announced its own plans to sell Irishgold brand butter and the product hit Wisconsin store shelves last week.
Ornua then filed its trademark infringement suit claiming that Old World Creamery’s new Irishgold brand is attempting to profit from its Kerrygold brand’s already established brand reputation. And a federal judge followed up by granting a temporary restraining order to stop sales of Irishgold butter, leaving both brands to figure out how to deal with the butter already on the shelves.