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Hatch Chile Farmers Strike Back | Hatch Chile Patent

hatch green chiles

LAS CRUCES >> The chile wars are heating up and Hatch Valley farmers are banding together to protect the heritage of our home-grown, must-have food.

The Hatch Chile Association, comprised of some six board members who are chile growers and producers from the valley, is actively pursuing an action with the United States Patent and Trademark office, said Duane Gillis, president of the board and a fourth-generation Hatch chile farmer. The case, originally filed in 2012 also includes the company El Encanto which does business as Bueno Foods.

hatch green chiles

At issue is the use of the Hatch brand by the Hatch Chile Co., a Georgia-based company which was founded in Albuquerque in 1987 by Steve Dawson, 73, who is the president of the Hatch Chile Co. He recently underwent surgery and moved to Georgia to be close to family, but remains involved with the company, according to David Gregory, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

The local growers would like to see the farmers in the Hatch Valley, from the Caballo Dam, along the river and agricultural lands southward for roughly 35 miles and ending slightly north of Leesburg Dam, be approved as a group to gain rights to a certification mark, which would essentially require marketers to certify chile labeled as Hatch is grown within the Hatch Valley.

“We’re in a waiting game right now,” Gillis said. “We’re waiting for the proceedings of the trademark board on the certification mark. We just feel like the main goal is to defend fourth and fifth generation farmers in the valley. We’re very proud of our legacy and protecting it and we should prevent people from registering Hatch as a trademark.”

Hatch Chile Patent Video below…

While the Hatch Chile Co. holds the trademark for their yellow cans of processed chile, the farmers feel the Hatch brand should apply to only chile grown in the valley.

“We want to retain the certification mark so we can protect any grocery store, any small business that can prove they are actually selling Hatch chile,” Gillis said.

Preston Mitchell, a member of the Hatch Chile Association board, agreed.

“Farmers have been growing chile here in the Hatch Valley for four-plus generations and, as everyone knows, Hatch Chile is famous the world over,” Mitchell said. “We are incredibly blessed to be a part of the history and heritage of the valley and think consumers deserve to be able to tell if the chile they are eating is really grown here in the valley. As such, we formed the Hatch Chile Association and filed for a certification mark with the USPTO.”

The mark will give consumers an easy way to know that the products they are buying at the grocery store are made with authentic green chile grown in the Hatch Valley. It will also give grocers and food processors the ability to display the fact that they source only authentic chile and aren’t interested in misleading their customers as to the origin of their chile and chile products.

“We think that consumers deserve to know the truth about where their chile comes from,” Mitchell said.

Gregory, of the Hatch Chile Co. said the ongoing dispute was not impeding the Georgia-based company’s day-to-day operations.

“This dispute is not having any operation impact on the Hatch Chile Company,” Gregory said. “We continue to grow our sales and expand distribution for our HATCH product line while remaining profitable.”

He also expressed concerns that the recently-formed Hatch Chile Association may not represent all of the growers in the valley and is a continuation of the 2013 actions initiated by Bueno Foods, a market competitor.

“There are six green chile growers that are part of newly formed HCA, but it is unclear the amount of acreage that is represented by these growers and the legitimacy of the association as a representative organization for all Hatch Valley green chile growers,” he said.

“As a certifying body, it’s the association’s job to protect and defend the Hatch name,” Mitchell said. “While we would love it if everyone using the Hatch name bought their chile here in the valley, this isn’t always the case. Because of this, we feel it is our duty to prevent the registration of trademarks which associate the famous ‘Hatch’ name with chile which can’t be proven to be from here in the Hatch Valley.”

Mitchell said the association can not comment on whether the Hatch Chile Co. buys chile from the valley, the brand must be protected.

“In any event, we do not believe that anyone other than the growers here in the valley should be allowed to own the ‘Hatch’ name,” he said. “Allowing any one processor to trademark the name could allow future abuse. For example, if a small food processor used chile from here in Hatch in a chile product and advertised the product under the ‘Hatch’ name, they could potentially face a lawsuit for trademark infringement if the Hatch Chile Company’s trademark is allowed to stand. This is why our certification mark is so important.

“Our certification mark will allow anyone who buys the chile they sell (or the chile used in the products they produce) from here in Hatch to advertise it under the “Hatch” name,” Mitchell added. “A simple licensing agreement is all that is needed to use our mark with a product containing chiles from this region. This is great for businesses and consumers as it will make it incredibly easy to tell the difference between chile that is ‘Hatch’ or Hatch in name alone.”

Jason Gibbs may be reached at 575-541-5451.

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