Having grown weary of the adage that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” Salem Organic Soils, Inc., holding company of patents, trademarks and licenses for premium Sweet Peet® mulch, which is often featured in newspapers, on radio and television, including the Martha Stewart Living show, began an aggressive campaign in 2012 to remedy the inordinate amount of imitators trying to cash in on there branded name. Perhaps brought on by the desperation of a sluggish economy, or corporate greed and envy, whatever the cause, imitation was no longer flattering and, if left unchecked, would damage the quality of their brand.
For nearly three decades, Salem Organic Soils, Inc. has been in the business of resolving problems in agricultural manure disposal. Originally the focus was on horse manure but recently they have applied their processes to include cow manure. Restrictions by federal, state and local governments made it increasingly difficult to spread or dispose of cow dung. The company, owning two U.S. Patents, one Canadian Patent and trademarks in both countries, successfully made their Sweet Peet® Organic Mulch on a dairy farm in Virginia and has now expanded the Sweet Peet® production with the addition of cow manure.
Many imitators believe the misconception that they need only make a change to the spelling of a trademark. Some believe that by deviously dropping or adding words, to an existing trademarked name, they can tap in to the established market demand, to sell their own knock-off, usually an inferior imitation that won’t stand or create market share on its own merit.
“Creating confusion in the market place, counterfeiting and imitating, even if by accident, are just some of the violations U.S. Registered Trademarks are granted protection against,” says Brent Lamour, co- owner of Salem Organic Soils, Inc. “Usually, when we send a Cease & Desist letter, along with an explanation of the law, infringers readily comply. Some ask for verification of the brands ownership before changing their name, stationery and signage. Still, others want to know more about the laws, perhaps to see if there is wiggle room to circumvent. A few stubborn others will do their own arm-chair-lawyering or listen to so-called experts and try to continue down the infringement road to prosperity,” Lamour says
Such was the case for two garden & landscape supply centers in Stamford, Connecticut. Hoping to capitalize on the success of nationally branded Sweet Peet®, the prominent house-hold name for The Best Mulch On Earth®, they changed the spelling of the brand to Sweet Peat. When the bona fide Licensee, Sweet Peet of New York, suspected Ray’s Landscape Supply, LLC and Affordable Sweet Peat Co., LLC of infringement, they reported it to their Licensor, Salem Organic Soils, Inc. Owners Brent Lamour and Shawn Goff sent an investigative team to substantiate the allegations.
Over time, not only was the intentional re-spelling of the Sweet Peat® brand confirmed but investigators uncovered many other infringements including a claim that their product was one and the same as Sweet Peet®, even though they were changing the spelling of ‘Peet’ to ‘Peat.’ The infringers further claimed that their product was featured on the Martha Stewart show. Once having all this evidence in hand, the owners made the decision to seek justice in the courts.
Owning a U.S. Government Trademarked and Patented product entitled Salem Organic Soils, headquartered in Dutchess Co, New York, to the auspices of the Federal Courts, which is The United States District Court, Southern District of New York, in Manhattan. Affidavits were prepared and audio, visual and written evidence presented. The arduous processes of obtaining temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctions ensued, lasting through most of 2012. The Hon. Judge Louis Stanton adjudicated the case against defendant Rays Landscape Supply, LLC and Hon Judge Shira Scheindlin the case against defendant, Affordable Sweet Peat Co., LLC.