U.S. Third Circuit - The FindLaw 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court Agrees With Ball Park in Hot Dog Fight

Just a few days after the most popular hot dog eating holiday in the country, the legal fight between two titans of the hot dog industry came one step closer to reaching a final resolution. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued their order in the closely watched Parks v. Tyson case. Tyson Foods owns Ball Park brand hot dogs, while Parks became known for making PARKS' brand hot dogs.

Although the PARKS brand was, at one time, among the leading brand of hot dogs, after the owner died, the company never really recovered, but it never went away. However, when Ball Park sought to expand their line of dogs with their new "Park's Finest" label, Parks the brand filed suit claiming trademark dilution, infringement, and false advertising.

A Park in the Dark

While it may sound like Parks has a good case, a critical fact in Tyson's favor is that Park failed to renew their trademark registration shortly after the year 2000. Tyson did not attempt to use the "Park's Finest" until 2014, well over a decade after the registration lapsed without ever being renewed. 

Another fact in Tyson's favor is that their hot dog brand name and logo, Ball Park, is superimposed over the "Park's Finest" labeling, so as to avoid brand confusion. The packaging gives consumers the clear impression that these are Ball Park's premium, trendy, line of hot dogs.

Unfortunately for Parks, as the court explained: "consumer perceptions have a half-life, and "once a mark, always a mark" has never been a principle of trademark law." In addition to Parks letting the registration lapse, their use of their trademark was much less ubiquitous than it had been prior to the original owner's death, as they no longer engaged in national radio or TV advertising campaigns.

It is unclear whether Parks will appeal to the Supreme Court, but. at this point, it may be their last and only option.

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