Olive oil rivals settle lawsuit over similar packaging. One has Modesto connection

A Southern California olive oil company has agreed to stop using packaging that a Lodi-based rival found to be too much like its own.

The Lodi brand is owned by the Cortopassi family, which also cans tomatoes at Stanislaus Food Products in Modesto.

The Cortopassis and their oil company, Corto Olive, sued last year over packaging used by Gemsa Enterprises of La Mirada. The lawsuit involved a boxed blend that is 51 percent olive oil and 49 percent canola oil.

Corto has a product with the same oil ratio, and remarkably similar artwork on the 10-liter package. Both boxes depict a sprig of olives and a canola flower on the front. On the side is a spout pouring oil over a salad.

“Gemsa’s attempt to deceive customers into thinking they are buying our product, instead of a commodity knockoff, is so flagrant that we had to take action,” said Tom Cortopassi, senior managing partner of Corto Olive, in a prepared statement last year.

The suit was filed in July 2018 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The companies announced Monday, Aug. 12, that they have settled the case. Gemsa denied wrongdoing but did agree to stop using the packaging. It also will recall unsold inventory and destroy remaining packaging and marketing materials. And Gemsa created a new design for its product, which Corto has approved.

“Corto is committed to protecting its intellectual property and to protecting our customers, including the restaurateurs and food service distributors nationwide, who count on our products as the standard-bearer for premium olive oils,” Tom Cortopassi said in a joint news release. “This agreement achieves that objective.”

Emilio Viscomi, founder and co-owner of Gemsa, said his company is “glad to put this dispute behind us so that we can focus on our commitment to providing high-quality blended oils to consumers.”

The Cortopassi family founded its tomato cannery in downtown Modesto in 1942. It sells tomatoes and sauces to pizzerias and other Italian restaurants.

Corto Olive started in 2006 and has sold the 51-49 blend since 2010.