Tuesday, January 7, 2014

When an Onion is More than an Onion

Georgia's most valuable crop, the Vidalia Onion, is the centerpiece of a boiling trademark dispute.  The Vidalia Onion claims Federal trademark protection, as well as state protections.  Georgia decreed that an onion that grows up on the right side of the tracks (aka within a certain 20 county area) may make something of itself--it may become a Vidalia.  On the other side of the tracks, it would just be an "onion." 

Now, apparently, growers are harvesting these "Vidalia's" too early, and as such, is harming the Vidalia brand.  After all, a Vidalia harvested before its prime is most certainly not as sweet or as long lasting.  Well, Georgia can't have that happen.  So, in an effort to protect its most valuable vegetable crop and its brand, Georgia has issued a new regulation setting a date before which no onion may be harvested (the date is in April).  The regulation provides an extra 10-15 days for these young onions to further mature into Vidalias.

As you may imagine, this has caused a ruckus among the growers and between some growers and the good state of Georgia.  Many growers complain that an arbitrary harvest date is unreasonable and violates their "freedom to farm" as it were.  Others claim that the imposition of a harvest date does not take into account soil, weather, and other conditions which play a part in an onion's growth from mere "onion" to "Vidalia." 

This dispute is simply one more example of the importance of a brand or trademark and the lengths some will go to in protecting it.  Should be interesting to see if the regulation brings back the flagging Vidalia brand.  Stay tuned.