Blog Consumer's Right To Know Country of Origin
If you buy a cookie cutter, chances are very high that it was either made by us, Vermont-based Ann Clark Cookie Cutters, or by a factory in China. Look at the product label for country of origin. Ann Clark products are clearly marked Made in USA. About a year ago we filed a lawsuit against our main competitor, a company that annually imports millions of cookie cutters from China. We alleged the product was not being labeled Made in China. We have also found Chinese-made cookie cutters available for sale over the Internet that were incorrectly listed as Made in USA. There is little or no regulation with regard to labeling for products available for sale on the Internet.
But back to our lawsuit. Before we filed the lawsuit we contacted the importer of Chinese cookie cutters and said that we had solid evidence that cookie cutters arriving from China and for sale in stores and on the Internet were not labeled with country of origin as required by federal law under the Lanham Act. Some of our evidence was verification from U.S. Customs and Borders that a shipment of cookie cutters came into port unlabeled with regard to country of origin.
The importer expressed concern and surprise, but after several weeks we still found unlabeled Chinese cookie cutters for sale in the marketplace. Later, after filing the lawsuit, the importer's attorney said in a court filing that it wasn't really necessary to label the cookie cutters Made in China because it was a product that everyone assumed was made outside the USA.
Our position was that since the law requires all imports to be marked with the country of origin, consumers might assume just the opposite…that is, if it's unmarked they might assume that it's probably made in the USA. We pressed the lawsuit and paid plenty of legal fees because we believe that consumers have a right to know as required by trade law. We challenged our competitor to follow the law and mark the imported product Made in China. Only then could we find out whether it makes a difference to consumers.
In the end, the judge denied our motion for injunctive relief. His reasoning was that our competitor had taken steps to follow the law going forward. In December 2014 we agreed to settle and release the case.
For us to press the case further and get damages to pay our legal fees the court required us to prove that our competitor's violation of the Lanham Act had caused us economic damages. An effort to prove damages would have cost thousands of dollars for expert testimony and consumer studies related to consumer preference to buy American made products. We think that we could've proved it, but we couldn't afford the process to do so.
For all of the legal filings related to our lawsuit see Ann Clark, Ltd. v. R&M International, Inc.; Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-00143 filed in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont.