Apple Hill has been a popular Northern California destination during the fall season for decades.
Located in the western Sierra Foothills, the area is filled with orchards, breweries, wineries and tree farms-- making it the perfect autumn stop to enjoy with family and friends.
But not all is good in apple doughnut paradise.
The Apple Hill Growers Association has been engaged in an ongoing dispute with the family that runs Boa Vista Orchards. The battle became legal in October and is awaiting a hearing scheduled for Thursday in a Sacramento federal court.
Boa Vista Orchards, which operates under the company, El Dorado Orchards Inc., is one of the largest operations in the Apple Hill region and is located along Highway 50, just east of Placerville. The Apple Hill name is a trademarked term and was adopted by the Growers Association in 1964. The term Apple Hill is licensed for goods and services and doesn't have a geographical significance, according to the association.
The fight between the two parties began in 2013 when the Growers Association accused Boa Vista of "improper use" of the Apple Hill term and saw that as a "lack of loyalty", according to court documents. In 2014, the group removed Boa Vista Orchards from the association.
The Visman family, which owns Boa Vista, had distanced themselves from the group after feeling the association wasn't doing enough to properly promote the Apple Hill brand.
According to the Growers Association, removing Boa Vista from the group also meant taking away the family's license to use the term Apple Hill.
The bad blood boiled over shortly after Boa Vista was revoked of membership, when the association alleges Mason Visman-- whose parents, Brad and Kandi Visman, own the business-- created a website "representing to the public that it was the 'Official Site Of Apple Hill CA' ".
The Growers Association alleges the site, www.applehillca.com, also indicates Apple Hill has a "Visitor Center" with the same address as the Boa Vista Orchards location. The group claims Mason Visman is using the Apple Hill term as a business name and that the website displays the Boa Vista logo with the term Apple Hill, according to the lawsuit.
The last straw before the association filed a legal complaint came over the summer, when the group claims the Visman family placed a large billboard up on Highway 50 west of Placerville displaying the words Boa Vista with their business logo and used the phrase "Apple Hill Open".
The group alleges Boa Vista is creating a "false association" between their business and the Apple Hill trademark and are suing for infringement and unfair business competition. The Growers Association is seeking a jury trial to cease Boa Vista from using the Apple Hill term for business and also wants profits and damages awarded from company's use of the mark.
In response, Boa Vista filed a motion in November to dismiss the lawsuit. The motion claims the association doesn't have legal grounds to claim rights and entitlement to every detail of the term Apple Hill. The Visman's attorney, Paul Reidl, argues Mason's website isn't injuring the Apple Hill brand but is instead promoting other growers and businesses by listing them in the site's directory. The website also has a link to the Grower Association's website.
The motion argues the Boa Vista logo shouldn't be confusing to consumers because it is "totally dissimilar" to the Apple Hill registered mark. The Visman family also claims there is no plausible reason why a consumer would believe Mason's website is the source of the "third party goods he promotes on it."
Additionally, the motion states the statue of limitations has passed and the claims are no longer up for legal dispute.
ABC10 reached out to the law offices of Mike West, who is representing the Grower's Association, but was told their office "doesn't comment on pending litigation".
A federal judge will decide Thursday whether or not the case will move forward or be dismissed.
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