NPA takes breakaway organization to task over trademark issue

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

NPA takes breakaway organization to task over trademark issue

Related tags Natural products Npa Board of directors

The Natural Products Association has sent a letter to breakaway organization SENPA demanding it stop using a logo that NPA claims infringes on its trademarks.

SENPA at one time stood for the Southeast Natural Products Association. The organization, which split from NPA late last year, now says this stands for “Source for Education in the Natural Product industry Advocacy.”  NPA claims in the letter that will confuse the industry about which organization is which, especially as the SENPA logo features a leaf motif similar to that of the NPA logo.

SENPA had been a chartered regional member of Natural Products Association (NPA). On Sept. 19, 2017, SENPA president Michelle DuFresne announced that the relationship was at an end. "SENPA and the board of directors believe we can better serve our membership with this change and align the association with additional groups that serve the natural products industry and foster the growth of SENPA membership,"​ DuFresne said.

Split followed lawsuit

The split came after a suit filed by NPA against 10 individuals who were members of the NPA board at the time. The 10 individuals were alleged to have undermined “the organization’s ability to do its work”​ by cooperating in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed by former CFO Brent Weickert. NPA reached a confidential settlement with the defendants in January of this year.

Whats most troubling is they did this while they were on the NPA board.  They had a fiduciary responsibility to reveal a potential conflict of interest,​ Dan Fabricant, PhD, NPA’s executive director told NutraIngredients-USA.

Tensions about what NPA should be

Fabricant said that the split with SENPA is symptomatic to some degree of tensions within the organization.  NPA was founded by and still largely populated by small retailers.  But the industry has changed dramatically since the early ‘70s, he said, and that is an uncomfortable fact of life for some NPA members.

I think theres an element of that. I wish it werent the case,​ Fabricant said.

One of the challenges weve had is that NPA, the oldest trade association in the industry, couldnt have members who werent small independents.  But the independents arent the only ones selling natural products. The bigger players benefit from our efforts.  In order to represent the whole industry we have to let the internet sellers in,​ he said.

Our job is to grow the whole industry so that more people can have access to natural products. I think the pie can get bigger for everyone,​ Fabricant added.

When contacted about the cease and desist letter, SENPA executive director Debra Short said the organization’s counsel has addressed the letter and the organization would have no further comment.

SENPA has since 1971 held its own trade show.  The organization says that attendance at last year’s show was more than 3,000.  This year’s event is scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Orlando.

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