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2/8/2004

Judge: Tillamook jerky is OK

The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — A beef jerky maker can continue to use the word “Tillamook” in its brand name, a federal judge ruled Friday in rejecting a creamery’s complaints of trademark infringement.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman said the Tillamook County Creamery Association waited too long to object to the jerky-maker’s use of the word, which has been part of its brand name for 28 years.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Helen Gienger, one of the three owners of the jerky company.

Creamery officials said they had no problem with the Tillamook Country Smoker until about 1997, when the jerky maker began to aggressively enter major supermarket chains where the cheese has long been sold. Tillamook cheddar’s prominence has been on the rise in recent years.

“The markets converged and collided,” said Jim Edmonds, the creamery’s lead attorney.

Jim McMullen, chief executive of the creamery, said the cooperative had not decided whether to appeal.

The Tillamook name appears everywhere in this region of the northern Oregon coast — a county, a city, an avenue, a forest, a river, a bay. The word is Indian for “Land of Many Rivers.”

The creamery, founded in 1909 by Swiss dairy farmers who settled the area, began as a model of humble cooperation. The farmers pooled their resources so they could afford to transport the cheese beyond the walls of the valley.

Its rift with local businesses began in 2001, around the same time the creamery underwent a $50 million expansion. Nearly a million tourists passed through its visitor center last year, making it one of the state’s top tourist attractions. McDonald’s began a test last fall of the Tillamook Cheeseburger in 200 Washington restaurants.