Bloomberg Businessweek says Sir Richard “the blonde knight” Branson and his Virgin Group are aggressive defenders of their US trademarking. If you’re doing or wish to do business in the US and want to use the word “virgin” in any of your products or materials then expect to hear from Sir Richard’s legal counsel.
And, guess what! I think this might be a good thing.
Over the last couple of years I’ve had occasion to join in on some marvelous olive oil conversations with folks that run the gamut (I’m fighting the urge to type gamete but you may not find it as funny as I do) of the international olive oil trade. At some point there’s always a moan session (not the fun kind) involving real business threats and random jackassery. The subject of everyone-and-their-brother purveyors of human digestible fats using the terms “virgin” or “cold-pressed” makes these people crazy. Since I am an enthusiast of anything olive and conduct olive research I don’t get bent out of shape about the loose usage of those highly-coveted modifiers. So, when I saw the article about Richard Branson’s fight to be the only “virgin” in town I had to put what that meant to the olive oil industry into context.
In the article, past midway, there is a reference to a Chilean company using the term extra virgin for a vinegar product they wanted to sell in the US. Sir Richard’s legal team filed against them and the Chilean’s gave up. This made me very curious so I thought about what I know about food-oil processing and regulations. I don’t believe Virgin Group has gone after the US Department of Agriculture for their show-piece olive oil standards and I don’t believe they will. I know how seed oils, canola, walnut, peanut, etc. are produced and using any term which includes a form of “virgin” in it is a big stretch. I have seen cold-pressed on coconut oil jars but admit to having no idea how coconut oil is made and don’t care enough to do an internet search to find out. I ask myself – does this mean that olive oil producers, wholesalers, and retailers can expect Sir Richard and his merry legal band to charge to their rescue and take on those companies who violate “virgin.” One can only hope.
Now, as far as cold-pressed is concerned, unless some wealthy influencer latches on to cold-pressed as their business name, for example, Cold-Pressed Records, Cold-Pressed Mobile, or perhaps Cold-Pressed Outer Space (a fictional container storage for space travelers – think Aliens) then I think the olive oil world influencers will just need to depend on themselves and their enthusiast buddies to educate consumers about what it means to be a delicious and nutritious “virgin” olive oil.
May the sun shine through your branches.