Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Court sides with efforts to certify Hatch chiles

Court sides with efforts to certify Hatch chiles By MORGAN LEE AP writer | Posted: Friday, August 12, 2016 12:13 pm Green chile growers want new guest worker program Farm workers harvest chile July 25 on the 350-acre Adams Produce farm near Hatch. Last year, New Mexico saw a 10 percent decline in acres of red and green chiles harvested. That decline marked a 43-year low in the state, according to federal numbers. Jett Loe /The Las Cruces Sun-News via AP A federal appeals court is refusing to reconsider a decision in favor of an association of green chile growers in the Hatch Valley of Southern New Mexico in a dispute over the use of the renowned Hatch name on food labels. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a rehearing request by the Hatch Chile Co. in a potential setback to the company's efforts to protect its stylized "Hatch" brand logos, parties to the litigation confirmed Thursday. The appeals court recently backed efforts by the Hatch Chile Association and allied Albuquerque food distributor El Encanto to subpoena records that may indicate whether Hatch Chile Co. products contain purely Hatch-grown chile. The association is seeking a certification mark for Hatch-grown chile to help consumers verify the source. The years-long trademark dispute continues to unfold with New Mexico's late-summer chile harvest underway. Roadside chile roasting stands pop up across the state in August and September, selling chiles from Hatch and other local farms by the 30-pound sack and smaller increments. Preston Mitchell, a board member at the Hatch Chile Association, said Thursday that a lower court now will review subpoenas and decide what documents need to be released by Hatch Chile Co. and its main chile supplier. Hatch Chile Co. said in an email that the trademark dispute is ongoing and that it expects to receive fair treatment in U.S. District Court. El Encanto, which sells products under the Bueno Foods label, declined to comment on matters still under litigation. In a June opinion, the court of appeals wrote that the Hatch Valley "may be to chiles what the Napa Valley is to grapes," calling the area's chiles "some of the world's finest." Hatch Chile Co., in its appeal, said the comments were prejudicial to its case before a trial and appeals board at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where the Hatch Chile Association is seeking approval of a crop certification mark. That federal trademark board currently is considering whether the Hatch Chile Co. may have acquiesced to the certification mark in a 2014 letter congratulating an attorney for the Hatch Chile Association on the progress of its application.

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