After receiving a series of cease-and-desist letters from the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry ("NGPH"), our Fare Grange Law has asked the U.S. District Court in Minnesota to declare that Fare Grange Law is not infringing on trademarks owned by the Washington D.C.-based fraternal organization.
By threatening legal action unless we remove the word "grange" from our firm name, we believe NGPH is engaging in trademark bullying. Trademark bullying happens when trademark owners try to "enforce trademark rights beyond a reasonable interpretation of the scope of rights granted to the trademark owner."
NGPH has a history of using legal tactics to pressure small businesses that use the word "grange" (a synonym for the term "farm") in their business names. NGPH has taken legal action against various small businesses, including the sustainable urban farm Brooklyn Grange, the non-profit rural technology advocacy group Electronic Grange Network, and a specialty cigar company with a "Headley Grange" line of cigars.
As recently reported in Twin Cities Business Journal, "[Fare Grange Law is] putting up a strong, proactive defense against what we see as trademark bullying. Most small businesses can't afford to defend themselves when faced with a cease-and-desist letter and are forced to give up their business identity. Fortunately, as lawyers, we have the power to defend ourselves in court. We're hopeful we can resolve this issue soon."
Trademark bullying has been recognized as a national problem, and has recently been in the news in Minnesota. The Minnesota Legislature has twice considered bills to protect small business owners against trademark bullying.
The standard for determining trademark infringement is "likelihood of confusion" in the marketplace. This standard involves an analysis of several factors, including the similarity of the marks and whether the two entities provide similar services. It does not prohibit the use of a trademarked word in conjunction with other distinguishing words.
Fare Grange Law is a private law firm providing direct legal services to both farm and food businesses. NGPH is a non-profit "family, community organization with its roots in agriculture." NGPH does not and never has provided legal services. We firmly believe that the public is more than capable of discerning the difference between our small law firm and the NGPH.
Fare Grange Law is a public-interest law firm that provides direct legal services to independent farmers, food entrepreneurs, and non-profit advocacy groups within the sustainable and organic farm and food sector. Our firm exists to help these small farm and food businesses get off the ground, take root, and thrive. Please click here to learn more about our firm.