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Turkish ag group tries to trademark ‘IDAHO’

BOISE – An ag group in Turkey has applied to the Turkish Patent Institute to trademark the word “IDAHO” for its agricultural, plant and animal products – and the Idaho Potato Commission doesn’t take too kindly to that idea.

Neither did the Idaho Senate, which on Thursday fast-tracked a resolution against the move proposed by the Potato Commission and passed it unanimously.

“If that office grants them that authority to use IDAHO as their trademark, they can both sell and market products both in Turkey and internationally using the Idaho name,” said Sen. Steve Bair, R-Blackfoot, Senate Agriculture Committee chairman. “I guess we take exception to that. This is not intended to poke our finger into Turkey’s eye, but they need to understand that we treasure the Idaho name.” If others can use it on their products, he said, “We lose the ability to regulate the quality of Idaho’s products.”

The Turkish agency has a public comment period on the application open through Feb. 12; that’s why the Senate resolution is being rushed through. “We need to get it done so the governor can get a letter drafted,” Bair said. The Potato Commission already has hired a Turkish attorney and she’s provided advice on how to proceed.

Bair, a retired potato farmer, said, “I really feel bad, because … I think we have a great relationship with Turkey. We do a bit of trade with them. This is not intended to damage that.” But, he said, “We need to protect our intellectual property. If anybody on the face of the earth has done a good job with trademarks, it’s the Potato Commission with ‘Famous Potatoes.’”

The resolution urges the governor to “review the matter and take all necessary steps to oppose the application,” and also directs that an official copy of the approved resolution “be distributed to the Republican of Turkey, the Turkish Patent Institute and the congressional delegation representing the State of Idaho in the Congress of the United States.”

Bair told the Senate, “We need to pursue it thru the federal level as well. I have less confidence that we can get anything done at the federal level by Feb. 12, therefore it’s important that we pass this resolution today.”

It says, “Idaho highly values its rich agricultural history, and … it is the policy of the State of Idaho to protect the identity of its agricultural products as originating in Idaho. … If the applicant is allowed to register the mark ‘IDAHO,’ it is highly likely that there will be consumer confusion in that purchasers will assume that products, over which Idaho will have no quality standards control whatsoever, originated in Idaho and that if such products are of low quality or contaminated, the purchaser will avoid Idaho labeled products as a result, including products legitimately originating in the State of Idaho.”