New Orleans Sno-Ball vendors claim RICO violations in federal suit

Alejandro de los Rios Jun. 28, 2011, 9:00am

A group of vendors that sell New Orleans-style shaved ice are suing a manufacturer of sno-ball machine parts in federal court for alleged racketeering and fraud.

Plum Street Snoballs, Raggs Supply, Special T Ice Co., Parasol Flavors, Simeon Inc., Southern Snow MFG and Snow Ingredients are suing SnoWizard Inc. and Ronald Sciortino in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

New Orleans attorney Mark Andrews filed the suit June 24.

The suit alleges that SnoWizard violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by gaming market prices and fraudulently claiming patents on the ice-shaving machine's components parts.

SnoWizard is "trying to assert and establish bogus intellectual property rights – all traceable to the fundamental falsehood that SnoWizard invented ... the whole "industry" – and that everybody else is just a copying, infringing pirate."

The suit references litigation from 1984 in which SnoWizard sued Eiseman Products, claiming a patent on a wide array of snoball related products. A federal judge ruled against SnoWizard and the decision was upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1986.

The suit states that the "whole SnoWizard ice-shaving machine was never patented. SnoWizard's first owner filed a patent that was denied in 1942 and the prominent 'patent pending' on the door of the ice-shaving machine after 1942 was a false marking."

The false patents also extend to a door hinge, the machine's leg design and several custom flavors like "King Cake," "Cajun Red Hot" and "Buttered Popcorn."

The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment "of the invalidity and unenforceability of Defendant SnoWizard's purported trademark rights."

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