Down East 2013 ©
The National Pork Producers Council wants to put the Maine Lobster Promotion Council in a pot of hot water. The pig producers, who proudly declare that pork is “the other white meat,” claim that the Maine council is stealing their thunder when it calls lobster “the ultimate white meat.” The swineherds have filed a $75,000 lawsuit to force the crustacean’s supporters to eat their words.
The complaint just doesn’t hold water, in the eyes of the lobster lovers. “I’ve never heard of anyone confusing a lobster for a pig,” responds Susan Barber, the lobster council’s executive director. “White meat is a generic term, and our adjective is very different from their adjective.” The lobster council has used the phrase in its promotional material since 1993.
If the pork people are claiming rights to the phrase “white meat,” notes attorney Bruce Keller, “the chicken industry might have something to say about that.” Keller’s New York City law firm, Debevoise and Plimpton, is defending the lobster promotion council without charge out of a love for both law and lobster. “The case raises some interesting trademark and First Amendment issues,” Keller explains. “Besides, I like lobster and I like Maine, even if I don’t get up there as often as I’d like.”
Keller predicts that the courts will take years to get to the meat of the matter. Meanwhile, both sides are garnering a good deal of attention from the issue, according to Sue Barber. “U.S. News and World Report carried an item,” she says. “I’ve been interviewed by a newspaper in Iowa and on a network of 180 radio stations for a farm news network. There was something in USA Today.”
Apparently there will be plenty of opportunities to ham it up before this case is settled.
(Published June 1997)