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No Olive Branch for the IP Wars

Alan Sipress

The big news in the tech world today is the $1 billion lawsuit by entertainment conglomerate Viacom against the video Web site YouTube and its parent company, Google, for allegedly infringing copyrights by showing television programs online without permission.

But as the lawyers struggle to define intellectual property rights in the Internet Era, another lawsuit filed just days ago underscores how important these rights continue to be even when the stakes involve age-old traditions. This case is all about olive oil and Jewish dietary laws that date back centuries.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district in New York, pits the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America against Valdoliva International Inc., a producer and importer of olive oil from the south of Italy. For generations, the rabbis and inspectors of the Orthodox Union have examined food products to determine whether they comply with Jewish laws governing what is kosher. Food producers that pass muster can mark them with the Orthodox Union's OU trademark, which observant Jews often look for when they go shopping.

In the lawsuit, filed last week, the Orthodox Union alleged that Voldoliva had violated its registered trademark by placing an OU on the labels of olive oil bottles without authorization. The Orthodox Union claimed this substantially undercut its standing and harmed consumers of kosher food, who were tricked into thinking that the olive oil had been certified as kosher.

In its written response to the complaint, Valdoliva said the oil labeled with the OU trademark was produced in accordance with the Orthodox Union's koshering procedure and eligible for certification by the group. The company said the dispute is "obviously an innocent misunderstanding," adding that it has already recalled from distributors any bottles now bearing labels with the OU trademark.

According to the Orthodox Union's lawyer, David J. Butler, infringement of the OU trademark is not uncommon. He said he becomes involved in about a dozen cases a year involving alleged violations of the trademark though not all of these end up in court. He said those numbers are not surprising given than the Orthodox Union certifies a quarter of a million products as kosher every year.

By Alan Sipress  |  March 13, 2007; 2:25 PM ET  | Category:  Alan Sipress
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can we use this article in our site ?

Posted by: engin83 | March 14, 2007 7:37 AM

The Orthoodox Union has several lawyers working on cases like this one. Although only a feew dozen go to court, they have over 100 incidents of unauthorized use of their kosher symbol each year. Kashrus Magazine ( lists some 500 miuslabled products each year from all the kosher-certified food products. That amounts to a serious challenge to the kosher consumer and hte vegetarian/lactose intloerant community that shops kosher.
Editor, Kashrus Magazine

Posted by: Rabbi Wikler | March 20, 2007 5:16 PM

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