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National Grange sues New York farm over name

By Steve Brown, Capital Press (12/15/11)

  DECEMBER 19, 2011 --

A tiny rooftop farm in New York City has run afoul of the nation's oldest nonprofit agriculture and rural public interest organization.

The National Grange has sued the Brooklyn Grange alleging trademark infringement. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

National Grange President Ed Luttrell said in a press release that while the Grange did not initially seek to file suit, the move was necessary to protect the Grange's name and reputation.

"Filing a lawsuit in federal court is always a last resort, only used when all other attempts to resolve a conflict have failed," Luttrell said.

Amanda Brozana, communications director for the National Grange, said initial attempts to reach agreement with Brooklyn Grange were rebuffed.

"We sent a letter asking them to either stop using the name or pay us a license fee. That was ignored," she said.

License fees to use the Grange name are "very, very small," she said, starting at $100.

Further letters also failed to resolve the issue, so now the National Grange seeks a cease-and-desist order, plus legal and court fees.

"We are concerned over the issue if anything happened with their product," she said, adding that nothing like that has every happened. "Most smaller folks either change their names or pay for licenses to associate with our good reputation."

The National Grange has resolved 49 such cases since the end of 2007; 17 are still open. The biggest one, Brozana said, was with Tyson Foods, which planned an "Open Grange" product line. That one was resolved without a lawsuit.

Spokesmen for the Brooklyn Grange did not respond to Capital Press requests for comment.

The for-profit organization's website describes it as "the largest rooftop farm in the U.S." Starting on a 1-acre plot in 2010, the company grows 40 varieties of tomatoes and salad greens, herbs, carrots, fennel, beets, radishes and beans. Produce is sold directly to the community at farmstands and to local restaurants.

The farm was financed through a combination of private equity, loans, fundraising events and the website Kickstarter.com.

The National Grange, founded in 1867, has more than 162,000 members. It provides volunteer-based, as well as commercial, goods and services to families and communities, through a network of more than 2,500 chapters.



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