28
Feb/19

Lanham Act Section 43(a) Class Action (sic) re KONA Coffee


Kona is a coffee-growing region in Hawaii. The Department of Agriculture of Hawaii has a registered certification mark for the mark 100% KONA COFFEE and design. Many entities own registrations for coffee including the KONA element, most disclaiming the term, some slipped by without. Four growers of Kona coffee (from Kona) have now sued 17 named defendants, including the largest food purveyors in the U.S. (i.e. Amazon and Walmart), for selling coffee allegedly mislabeled as Kona coffee. Interestingly, this is styled as a class action, under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act, alleging both false designation of origin and false advertising.

Section 43 is not a consumer-oriented provision. Plaintiffs must themselves engage in U.S. Commerce (but see Belmora). Paragraph 33 alleges that between 600 and 1000 entities are injured by defendants’ actions. These all allegedly sell Kona-grown coffee.

Here is an article on whether common law certification marks might be enforceable.

Background: A filing from a recent class action regarding Kona Coffee here and a new article on a prior dispute regarding the KONA name from the 90’s here

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