You’ve probably heard of and/or eaten Kerrygold® Pure Irish Butter, a deliciously popular (but higher-priced) butter imported from Ireland, made with milk from grass-fed cows. It’s available in most stores across the United States…except for Wisconsin. Sorry to all my Wisconsin friends, you’re missing out. However, the butter is so popular that there have been reports of Wisconsin residents driving across state lines just to buy the Kerrygold® butter.
The reason that Kerrygold® butter cannot be sold in Wisconsin is the state’s protectionist law that requires all butters sold in Wisconsin to be graded through either the Wisconsin or federal grading systems, which effectively bans butter produced outside the United States. Kerrygold® butter is produced, packaged, and graded in Ireland by the Dublin-based company Ornua, and thus can’t be legally sold in Wisconsin.
Recently, a company based in the United States, Old World Creamery, attempted to side step Wisconsin’s law against imported butter. A couple weeks ago, Old World Creamery announced plans to start selling a butter from Ireland in Wisconsin, under the brand name “Irishgold.” The company found a workaround to sell its Irishgold butter in Wisconsin by importing it from Ireland, processing and packaging it in the United States, and then having the butter graded by state-licensed graders in Wisconsin.
Soon after learning of Old World Creamery’s plans, Ornua Foods North America Inc. and Ornua Co-operative Ltd. (collectively “Ornua”) filed a federal trademark infringement complaint in the Eastern District of Wisconsin against Old World Creamery LLC and Eurogold USA LLC (the “Defendants”). On the same day, Ornua also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), seeking to stop Defendants’ use and marketing of the IRISHGOLD mark. Ornua asserted its ownership of several federal trademark registrations, including KERRYGOLD® (stylized) (Reg. No. 883,443) in connection with “dairy products – namely, butter, cheese”, and several KERRYGOLD & design registrations (Reg Nos. 1,452,354; 4,518,032) also in connection with various dairy products.
Last week, the court ruled in favor of Ornua and granted the motion for TRO. Following the well-established factors for granting a TRO, the court decided that a TRO was appropriate because Ornua had a reasonable likelihood of success on its trademark infringement claims, Ornua would suffer irreparable harm if Defendants’ use of the IRISHGOLD mark continued, greater injury would be inflicted on Ornua by denying the motion, and granting the TRO served the public interest.
What do you think? It will be interesting to see whether the TRO will push the parties to settlement, or whether litigation will continue towards trial. For now, it seems that my fellow Wisconsinites will still be making road trips to satisfy their cravings for imported Irish butter. Stay tuned for updates.