Legal battle over worm poopTerraCycle, a New Jersey startup selling liquid worm castings in recycled soda bottles, is being sued by Scotts (Miracle Gro) for trademark dress infringement (similar packaging) and false advertising. The evidence for the packaging lawsuit is hysterical: Scotts claims that they alone hold claim to green and yellow labels and that consumers will be confused. Scotts provided a photo of a Wal-Mart shelf in which TerraCycle's bottle was adjacent to a container of Miracle-Gro.
TerraCycle rebutted with pictures of dozens of different gardening brands' green and yellow bottles (including other giants Schultz and Vigoro), showing that green and yellow is the de facto standard for lawn and garden products. And they demonstrated that the Wal-Mart photo had been staged; the TerraCycle products were several inches closer to the Miracle-Gro than the shelf price tags beneath them, violating a bunch of Wal-Mart product placement guidelines (including spacing between competitors' products).
TerraCycle's website is pretty funny, particularly their "David vs. Goliath" table, with photos of the two companies' CEOs and facilities.
The troubling part of the lawsuit is the refusal by both TerraCycle and Scotts to release their lab tests (TerraCycle used a lab at Rutgers) demonstrating which product actually encouraged better plant growth. A letter sent by a former Rutgers scientist indicates "in many cases TerraCycle Plant Food outperformed the leading chemical fertilizers. Our especially excited result was the significant increase in root growth." (Letter available on their blog.) But no specific details or measurements have been revealed. Regardless of the final results, many consumers would still prefer organic worm poop to chemical fertilizers, but this lawsuit threatens to kill tiny TerraCycle. (Audio story at NPR.)