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Federal Judge Approves Final $12 Million Settlement in Kona Labeling Case

Kona Coffee Public Domain photo

A coffee farm in the Kona region of Hawaii.

In another win for coffee farmers in Hawaii’s Kona region, a United States federal judge this week approved a $12 million settlement against MSN, Ltd., the owner of the ABC convenience store chain, in a lawsuit regarding Kona coffee labeling.

The final approval brings an end to a four-year-old class action suit that has resulted in $33.4 million in settlements among 21 defendants, including coffee roasting companies, as well as large resellers such as Costco, Walmart, Amazon and Kroger.

Settlements have also included injunctive provisions, namely more more stringent requirements regarding the marketing and sales of coffee products bearing the Kona name.

In a recent order, U.S. District Court Judge Robert S. Lasnik of the Western District of Washington noted the work of an expert economist on behalf of the plaintiffs that suggested the injunctive provisions amounts to $81.2 million over the next five years.

In that order, the judge approved a request for more than $5.8 million in attorney’s fees for firms working on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Dating back to 2019, the original complaint presented the results of laboratory testing on 19 different coffee products that were marketed and sold as Kona coffee but allegedly contained little or no coffee that was actually produced in Kona, a well-known coffee-growing region.

The plaintiffs invoked the Lanham Act, a 1946 U.S. trademark act designed to protect from “false designation of origin” in the sale of consumer products.

“Even though only 2.7 million pounds of authentic green Kona coffee is grown annually, over 20 million pounds of coffee labeled as ‘Kona’ is sold at retail,” the original motion, filed in the State of Washington district court, states. “That is physically impossible; someone is lying about the contents of their ‘Kona’ products.”

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