Walker Morris versus Defra in pie fight

Walker Morris is taking a fight over the branding of pork pies to the Court of Appeal on behalf of Northern Foods.

Partner Patrick Cantrill is leading the Walker Morris team acting for Northern Foods, a longstanding litigation client, to protect the famous ‘Melton Mowbray’ pork pie name.

Northern Foods took the case against the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to the High Court last year.

Defra is supporting an application by the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association (MMPPA), proposing an 1,800-square-mile region encompassing parts of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire as a “protected geographical indication” (PGI) area in which the pies are made.

If the application is successful, pork pie producers will also have to adhere to a specific, traditional recipe to manufacture Melton Mowbray pies.

Northern Foods’ case was thrown out by Mr Justice Crane in December 2005, so it has applied for permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

Northern Foods argues that the designation would increase competition and thus force it to close its Melton Mowbray pie factories in Shropshire and Wiltshire, affecting 1,000 jobs.

The company claims that the proposed area is arbitrary and contrary to the rules for establishing a PGI. It wants the area restricted to Melton Mowbray and its immediate environs, including small, independent piemakers, but excluding its rival Samworth Brothers.

Matthew Talbot of Leicester firm Harvey Ingram acted for the MMPPA. He said that Crane J’s ruling would protect traditional foodstuffs for future generations and that the precedent set may help to protect other products such as Cumberland sausages.

Other traditional UK products already protected under a PGI include Newcastle Brown Ale and a number of local cheeses and meats.

Cantrill is instructing Brick Court Chambers’ Mark Hoskins. Talbot instructed Hogarth Chambers’ Michael Edenborough. The Treasury Solicitor’s Department instructed 1 Crown Office Row’s Wendy Outhwaite for Defra.