A Boise, Idaho restaurant has to change its name after the Eagle-based Idaho Potato Commission complained that the name infringed upon a federal certification mark owned by the commission.
The Idaho Fry Co., which opened earlier this year, was told by the potato commission that the name violated rights held by the commission that prevent any unauthorized use of “Idaho Potato” and any similar construction to potatoes by outside companies or entities.
“The situation is, we have a federal certification mark for Idaho and all potato products,” said Frank Muir, president and chief executive officer of the IPC. “It’s been an ongoing rule since the IPC formed around 70 years ago. In order to keep that mark, we have to show we’re willing to protect it.”
Muir added that french fries fall under that certification mark.
Muir said the potato commission offered to license the certification mark to the restaurant for $100 per year, along with an agreement that the restaurant use exclusively Idaho-grown potatoes, but the owners of the establishment refused.
One of the restaurant’s co-owners refuted that claim.
“That’s not it at all,” said Blake Lingle, who owns the Idaho Fry Co. with partner Riley Huddleston. “The only thing they offered was that we had to change the name to ‘The Fry Company Featuring Idaho Potatoes,’ or something like that.”
Muir also said — and Lingle confirms — that the potato commission offered to pay half of the cost of changing signage and advertising materials once the name change is made.
“We didn’t take it,” Lingle said. “They had a lot of strings attached. Another thing is, the IPC is a tax-supported organization, and we didn’t feel right taking tax payers’ money for a private for-profit venture.”
Though the restaurant’s owners already have been issued a cease and desist order from the state, Muir said the IPC has given Lingle and Huddleston until August to change the name.
“Unless IPC changes their mind, we unfortunately can’t afford to go to court and try this,” Lingle said. “We’re going to have to change the name.”
Muir said, “It’s a small business, and we want to see it succeed. We gave them every opportunity to comply with the federal certification mark, and they chose not to. We offered them a financial benefit. We really did bend over backwards to accomplish their objectives.”
Muir and Lingle did agree on one thing. The publicity generated by the controversy appeared to bolster the restaurant’s business, at least in the short term. The day after the news broke in Boise-area media June 1, business at the soon-to-be-former Idaho Fry Company was swift.
“It was a great PR opportunity for them,” Muir said.