The Idaho Potato Commission Addresses The Idaho Fry Company's Name Controversy
June 4, 2009—Recently, there has been a lot of media attention and public discussion about the Idaho Fry Company's name. The Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) would like to share its side of the story and correct some of the misinformation that has been disseminated.
One of the IPC's primary responsibilities has been to protect its certification mark or risk losing it and the multibillion dollar revenue this industry represents to the state of Idaho every year, however, there are certain facts that are most relevant to this particular situation:
- As soon as the IPC learned of this new business (Idaho Fry Company), we tried to contact them. They had not opened yet and as no contact information was available on the door of the restaurant, an IPC employee left his business card under the locked door requesting the owners to call us.
- Once contact was made, which was before the restaurant opened, the IPC offered Idaho Fry Company (IFC) the opportunity to license the use of "Idaho" if they would agree, as all other licensees are required to do, to abide by the rules of the federal certification mark. This includes a nominal $100 annual license fee, the agreement that all potatoes will be Idaho grown potatoes and the understanding that they cannot "own" the name "Idaho" in their store name as that would prevent any other licensee from using it (which is not legal per federal certification marks). The IFC elected to not agree to this proposal. They also elected to use non-Idaho potatoes which would prevent them from using the certification mark which guarantees the potatoes are grown in Idaho. They simply can't say they are an "Idaho Fry" company and serve fries from California, Colorado, etc.
- Once IFC rejected the IPC's first proposal, we offered to help pay for them to change the store name. The IPC offered $7,000 (which is not taxpayer money as IFC reported; the IPC funding does not come from Idaho tax revenue -- it is collected as a separate assessment from all Idaho growers, shippers and processors, which the IPC has supported for 72 years); IFC also rejected this offer.
- The Idaho State Attorney General's office issued a "cease and desist" order on 3/25/2009 to IFC to comply with the certification mark regulations or to change their name. The IPC offered to allow IFC through August to make the change, which they agreed to do.
- The IPC is charged with promoting and protecting Idaho's certification mark which has been established as an image of quality with over $200 million in advertising since its inception. Many other Idaho industries believe that the quality image of potatoes creates a firm foundation for their industries to build upon including other fruits and vegetables and beef and dairy. Idaho means quality. If the IPC fails to protect its certification mark it is in jeopardy of losing it.
Every effort was made to help IFC either become a licensee to use the certification mark or minimize the financial burden of making the required name change. They refused all offers. The IPC must be fair and equitable to all of our licensees who follow the rules. The IPC cannot make exceptions, or the exception immediately becomes the norm, and the trademark or certification mark is lost.
Thank you for taking the time to read the other side of the story. If you have any further questions, please contact the IPC directly.