Tyson Foods defeats Ball Park hot dog legal appeal

(Reuters) - Tyson Foods Inc and its Hillshire Brands unit on Thursday defeated an appeal by the maker of Parks’ sausages challenging their use of “Park’s Finest” to describe a high-end line of their Ball Park hot dogs.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld a federal judge’s May 2016 dismissal of trademark infringement and false advertising claims by Parks LLC, which said many consumers would be fooled into thinking it made “Park’s Finest” frankfurters.

Parks’ lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. John Dabney, a lawyer for Tyson, declined to comment.

The appeals court filed its decision under seal, and will likely release a version within a few weeks after both sides advise whether parts of it should remain confidential.

Parks is based in Pittsburgh, and known for a long-running radio and television ad campaign in which a boy begs his mother for “more Parks’ sausages, Mom ... please.”

Its owners have included two former star football running backs, Hall of Famer Franco Harris from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Lydell Mitchell from the Baltimore Colts, who were also teammates at Pennsylvania State University.

In the May 2016 ruling, U.S. District Judge Joseph Leeson in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said a reasonable jury could not find that Tyson’s and Hillshire’s use of “Park’s Finest” tended to deceive “a substantial portion of their intended audience.”

He also said “Park’s Finest,” an all-beef line of hot dogs launched in 2014, served merely as a “reference” to the Ball Park brand, and confused only one in 200 people Tyson surveyed.

Tyson is based in Springdale, Arkansas, and has a plant about 60 miles (100 km) southwest of Allentown.

The case is Parks LLC v Tyson Foods Inc et al, 3rd U.S, Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 16-2768.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis