Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- A legal "snowball fight" is underway in federal court in New Orleans in the form of a racketeering lawsuit.
At issue is whether vendor can enforce a trademark on some of the most popular snowball flavors in town.
Plum Street Snowballs is the lead plaintiff in the case. Owner Donna Black said her cross-town competition SnoWizard and its owner Ronald Sciortino copied her business's 68-year-old recipe for "Orchid Cream Vanilla" flavoring.
She said SnoWizard now claims the trademark for the flavor and is preventing syrup suppliers that have her permission to produce the concentrate from selling Orchid Cream.
"We've had orchid cream vanilla since day one," said Black. "So, it's just totally bizarre that somebody else would think they could come in and say we invented it first."
Snowizard is celebrating its 75th year of selling snowballs, snowball making equipment and flavoring.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, including Southern Snow of Belle Chasse and Parasol Flavors of Abita Springs, claim SnoWizard is "attempting to manipulate the snowball market and is engaged in a scheme to assert exclusive monopoly rights to sell ice-shaving machines and two-dozen flavor names," including Orchid Cream Vanilla, Hurricane and King Cake.
Snowball customers Lois and Paul White from Los Angeles argue you can't trademark a New Orleans tradition.
"Something like king cake, which is an excellent flavor, has been around for a while," said Paul White. "I don't see how they can copyright that or patent it or trademark it."
SnoWizard's owner declined an interview request, but his attorney said this is the fifth lawsuit involving the same plaintiffs and all those lawsuits lack credibility.
Attorney Brad Harrigan said, "Although plaintiff has repeatedly sued SnoWizard, the vast majority of its claims have been repeatedly dismissed. The latest RICO complaint is merely an attempt to re-allege the already dismissed claims. SnoWizard fully expects this suit to be dismissed as well."
Back at Plum Street, Black said she'd rather make snowballs than throw them in court.
"We're not trying to take business away from anybody else," said Black. "They can sell the orchid, but it's not going to taste like mine because it's not mine."
SnoWizard claims its founder George Ortolano invented a type of snowball machine. The lawsuit claims his request for a patent was denied in 1942.