The Texas-based Pitchfork Land and Cattle Co. filed the lawsuit against Pitchfork Ranch LLC in a Lubbock, Texas, federal court last week.
According to the complaint, the Texas company, which spans 165,000 acres, organized as a corporation under the laws of the state of Delaware in 1933.
The Meeteetse Pitchfork Ranch organized as a limited liability corporation in the state of Wyoming in 1998.
Both company logos use the three-pronged pitchfork symbol, which the Texas company claims in the lawsuit was first used in 1883, along with the “Pitchfork” name in livestock, ranching services and stud services for horses.
The complaint lists out merchandise, including T-shirts, baby bibs, aprons, silk scarves, canned beverages and coolers, which it claims carried the “Pitchfork” name and symbol from as far back as September 1998.
Talking To Lawyers
Though the Pitchfork Ranch organized as a corporation in 1998, according to the company’s website its founder, Otto Frank Von Lichetenstein, broke ground on his first cabin and began ranching in the Greybull River valley in 1878.
Ben Anson, Pitchfork Ranch manager, told Cowboy State Daily that the company is still discussing the lawsuit with its lawyers and couldn’t say much about the complaint.
Anson confirmed that the ranch was founded in 1878, whereas the Texas company was founded five years later.
The challenge, Anson said, is finding documentation from the 19th century to support their claim to the Pitchfork name.
“We’re not really looking forward to it,” Anson said.
The manager of the Pitchfork Land and Cattle Co. in Texas declined to comment.
According to the complaint, the Pitchfork Land and Cattle Co.’s trademarks are “famous and distinctive” and were famous before the Pitchfork Ranch in Wyoming first used or promoted its own name.
By using the Pitchfork trademark, the Pitchfork Ranch is harming the Pitchfork Land and Cattle Co.’s brand, the suit claims. The Wyoming company, according to the suit, is competing with the Texas company.
The Pitchfork Ranch’s “statements have the capacity to deceive a substantial segment of potential customers, creating a false designation of origin and/or false or misleading representation of fact,” the complaint states.
The Texas company is asking that the court find the Wyoming company in violation of registered trademark rights and forfeit all sales and profits made under the “Pitchfork” name. The complaint also requests the court order the Wyoming company to pay all legal fees incurred by the Texas company and that it be prohibited from using the name in the future.
According to the Pitchfork Ranch website, Lichtenstein would spend 33 years of his life building the Pitchfork brand. He died in 1903 when he accidentally shot himself with a shotgun while climbing a barbed-wire fence.
Through the 1900s, the company changed ownership several times. At its peak, it held seven ranches on 250,000 acres, with 10,000 head of cattle and 20,000 head of sheep.
For the past 12 years, the ranch has been owned and operated by the Baker family, which still manages 100,000 acres.
Kevin Killough can be reached at Kevin@cowboystatedaily.com.