Riceland Foods, Inc., an Arkansas cooperative organization that exports rice products, grains, lecithin, and vegetable oil claimed in the Western District of Washington on Friday that Riceland Trading used its trademarks and “maliciously tread(ed) upon” the Riceland brand. The complaint claims the infringing products are “counterfeit” and “potentially hazardous,” and asks for relief and a permanent injunction against the defendants.
The plaintiff is allegedly the largest miller, marketer, and distributor of rice for human consumption worldwide. The company claims it owns the mark RICELAND which is used for a wide range of products they have produced since at least 1946. The complaint claimed, “(i)n an attempt to legitimatize their unauthorized activities, the Defendants market and sell counterfeit and potentially hazardous rice products using the Plaintiff’s trademarks without authorization, thereby creating consumer confusion as to whether such products are affiliated, endorsed, and/or sponsored by the Plaintiff.”
The defendants include Riceland Trading, LTD, a leading Thailand rice exporter doing business as Riceland Foods LTD, and Wismettac Asian Foods Inc, a distributor of Asian food products to the United States. They allegedly shipped 233,433 50 pound units of rice in Oregon, Washington, and the Northwest United States area since August 1, 2019. They allegedly began to sell packaging with the infringing marks on or about March 2020 when United States grocers were running out of rice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, taking the opportunity to fill rice shortages.
Riceland Foods claims the defendants “are using and will continue to use the Plaintiff’s brand and goodwill as a trusted United States rice manufacturer to circumvent the health and environmental standards imposed on foreign agricultural exporters,” further claiming that the sale of infringing rice is a health risk to Americans.
Riceland Foods, represented by Lane Powell and Dentons US LLP, argued that it would suffer damage and harm to its brand through the trademark infringement. The company filed claims of unfair competition, unjust enrichment, and false designation of origin. The plaintiff sought an award of “up to three times the Defendant’s profits” as well as damages.