Tri-Union Seafoods LLC, a California tuna company with the trademark for VAN CAMP’S tuna, claimed in the District Court of New Jersey that companies are importing tuna from Ecuador, which is not approved for sale in the United States, and selling it with the same trademark on its labels and, in some cases, next to the plaintiff’s tuna in New Jersey stores in a complaint filed on Tuesday.
The defendants, including Mega Products LLC, Ecuatorianita Import & Export Corp., and Mi Tierra Foods LLC, are New Jersey companies, which acquire and re-sell Van Camp’s tuna from Ecuador, but have not been authorized by Tri-Union Seafoods to sell its products.
“Tri-Union cannot verify the conditions under which Defendants’ Infringing Tuna is manufactured, stored, and sold, meaning Tri-Union has lost the power to control the quality and relative safety of products sold under its VAN CAMP’S® Trademark in the United States, causing irreparable harm,” the complaint stated.
The plaintiff, represented by Maria R. Sinatra with Venable LLP, claims it sent cease and desist letters, but the sales have continued. The company also claimed that the defendants presented consumers with misleading statements because the cans do not contain sufficient dry-weight to be considered “canned tuna” in the United States, but they are presented as such.
Tri-Union claimed that similar packaging created a false impression that the tuna is its Van Camp’s Tuna when it is a different product that is not associated with Tri-Union. The infringing tuna contains different ingredients, including the lower weight of tuna and a different serving size. The tuna is caught and packaged differently, and the nutrition information is in Spanish. The complaint also said the infringing tuna has stickers placed by the defendants over the nutritional content replacing the Spanish content with English text. The tuna from Ecuador is allegedly not made with the same “strict and exacting quality control standards” that Tri-Union follows.
The counts against the defendants in the complaint include: trademark counterfeit, false advertising, false designation of origin, and unfair competition. The complaint asked for the court to enjoin the defendants from their trademark infringing behavior and for the defendants to pay Tri-Union for lost profits based on their actions.