WASHINGTON, D.C.– Things are heating up between the Natural Products Association (NPA) and its former affiliate SENPA with NPA sending a cease and desist letter to SENPA citing trademark infringement and unfair competition.

SENPA (formerly the Southeast Natural Products Association) opened its membership nationally last December and has seen membership grow by about 15%. SENPA advised NPA on Sept. 19 that it would no longer charter with NPA and then issued a press release. NPA sent the cease and desist letter on Oct. 2 upon reading an article that defined the new SENPA as the Source for Education in the Natural Product industry and also a voice on Advocacy issues.

"NPA will not permit unaffiliated organizations to trade on its reputation and goodwill and harm its national and state advocacy efforts,” Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., the president and CEO of NPA, toldWholeFoodsMagazine.

“They were on our board of directors and started to set up a competitor. Samsung is going to sit on the board of Apple and create Samsung while they’re on the board of Apple? That’s not an honorable way to deal. They had a fiduciary responsibility. The NPA name belongs to NPA. The brand belongs to NPA. We’re going to protect that, too.

“When we spoke to SENPA [upon the Sept. 19 notification] we made it clear this was our name,” Fabricant added. “They can find a new name and good luck. They broke free of the association. They did it in the cover of dark. This was not transparent in any way.”

Fabricant charged the competing names could create confusion and dilute the effectiveness of NPA’s advocacy activities at the federal and state levels.

“It’s unclear how such activities would ever be envisioned as helping to strengthen the industry, or to help NPA, the oldest and largest Association that has been fighting for the industry for over 80 years."

NPA also released the response letter it received from SENPA’s attorney Rochelle Friedman Walk, who maintained the trademarks bear no visual similarity and while the "fanciful" word SENPA is spoken in total, NPA is something spoken by initials.

“We think it would be appropriate to work collaboratively with NPA to ensure that there is no confusion in the industry,” Walk stated. “If you would like to discuss a mutually beneficial plan for separation, my client and I would be pleased to have that discussion.

“SENPA has changed all of its marketing materials and website to remove references to NPA,” Walk added, “and has rebranded and revised its mission to reflect its plans to move forward. Certainly, you are not suggesting that an entity that was formed in the 1970’s to provide education, information and advocacy in the natural products industry can no longer do so since it is not a chartered region of the NPA. It has always been a standalone not-for-profit entity in the State of Florida and will continue to be so in the future.”

Debra Short, SENPA executive director, said the association had no further comment.

Founded in 1936, NPA represents over 1,400 members accounting for more than 10,000 locations of retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products-- including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids.

In a press statement, NPA identified 10 recent initiatives it has taken at the state level to advocate on behalf of the industry’s interests.

Published on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 11/7/17