Formerly Farmhand: Why We Changed Our Name

by firsthandfoods on May 1, 2013

This post outlines why we changed our name from Farmhand Foods to Firsthand Foods.  In October of 2011, Farmhand Foods applied for trademark protection from the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for the use of its award winning logo in association with the sale of meat products (see below).

Shortly thereafter, in December 2011, we received a “cease and desist” letter from S.F. Investments, Inc., owner of “Farmland Foods,” a branded line of Smithfield Foods’ pork products worth $3 billion in sales annually.  S.F. Investments demanded that we immediately stop using the name Farmhand Foods and relinquish our domain name and associated marketing materials.  We were surprised that our logo would pose a trademark threat to S.F. Investments, Inc., especially considering that their mark is distinctly different from ours (see below).

We immediately engaged legal counsel and a year-long process ensued in which we tried to save our name.  During this process, we proposed ways that we might coexist in the marketplace. We suggested a variety of actions we would take to further distinguish our brand, including a commitment to only ever using our red, black and cream colors and unique fonts.  And, given the one letter difference in our domain names, we changed our website address to www.pastureraisedinnc.com.  Despite this, and the fact that the USPTO agreed with us regarding our ability to coexist in the marketplace (they granted us our requested trademark protections), our proposal didn’t satisfy S.F. Investments, Inc.  This left us with the choice to get involved in a protracted legal battle in order to protect our rights to the name Farmhand Foods, or to choose a new name and move on.  We chose the second option.  As a start-up, mission-driven business, we felt it was critical not to expend our limited resources on legal fees and battles, but rather to remain focused on growing our markets, supporting the farmers in our network, and continuing to help build a robust local food system here in North Carolina.

Our New Name 

Choosing a name is not an easy undertaking.  Thank goodness for creative friends, colleagues, and family members! Beginning May 1st, 2013, we began doing business as Firsthand Foods.  We chose Firsthand Foods for two reasons.  First, it’s a name that we believe conveys a core mission of our company – to develop a direct and transparent connection in the marketplace between North Carolina’s small-scale, pasture-based livestock producers and local restaurants, retailers and food lovers.  As our customers know, we trace every piece of meat we sell back to the farm of origin so our buyers know exactly where their meat comes from and how it was raised.  Second, we chose Firsthand Foods because it lends itself to a smooth transition that allows us to continue building upon the brand recognition and loyalty that we’ve been fortunate to garner here in the Triangle over the past couple of years.

 

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Eileen Broader May 6, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Christ, this country is on an unsustainable collision with itself. I so agree with those who would sanction all lawyers to common sense school!

billy May 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Great job on the new name, guys! This isn’t the first I’ve heard of a monster company issuing cease and desist legal assertions against mission-driven startups. Being full of startup energy, and mission driven, you’re just way more creative. The real issue is, I believe, that you guys are so much better than Farmland (which is NOTHING like Farmhand!!!) that those guys are just jealous. At least now I know who I’ll always get my food from and who I’ll always avoid!

firsthandfoods May 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Billy — thanks for your comments. It REALLY helps to hear from folks like yourself who understand the challenges small, mission-driven businesses face and who are committed to supporting local, community-based businesses like ours. We really appreciate it!

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