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29.12.09

Unlike Jimmy Carter, some of those peanut growers are mean 

Found in David Vinjamuri’s Accidental Branding (one of several books I have still to go through), talking about the founding of the Clif Bar:

Gary loved the package, but he was reluctant to name the bar after himself … As they were finalizing packaging a couple of months later, they ran a trademark search, only to learn that the name might infringe on a product called Gary’s All Natural Peanuts. Erickson wrote a letter to the company, who promptly threatened to sue them.

What the heck?
   The incident is in another book, Raising the Bar, which founder Gary Erickson himself wrote:

We did a trademark search and found a product called Gary’s All Natural Peanuts. We thought, “Well, it’s not exactly a bar. Let’s write them a letter and tell them what we are doing.” In no time flat we received a letter from the large multinational company that made the product telling us that they would come after us with all their attorneys and sue us for so much money that we would regret ever thinking of Gary Bar.

   I’d love to tell you who the multinational is, but a USPTO search does not reveal this trade mark. There is, however, one for plain old Gary’s for a company called Gary’s Peanuts, Inc., but I dare not presume it’s the same one. (It’s owned by Severn Peanut Co., Inc., a subsidiary of Meherrin Agricultural & Chemical Co., Inc., which owns Hampton Farms. Not sure if these guys are a ‘multinational’ as they look pretty local to me.)
   Whomever responded to Gary Erickson, this is abysmal business behaviour, Peanut people. Here’s a new company trying to do the right thing and probably wrote a very polite letter. Your first response, if the above is correct, is to resort to lawyers.
   Where I come from, formal proceedings are a last resort. Most people are able to work out their differences professionally and show some responsibility for their positions first. But if you want to enrich the legal profession and look like dicks when the story is retold, be my guest.
   It still amazes me how gutless some people are. And we wonder why the US is in the financial poo. Could it be because money is going to the wrong department for things that most normal people can sort out with a letter or two?

PS.: Below is a response from Tom Nolan of Hampton Farms, confirming it was not his company who threatened Gary Erickson, and that they are not a multinational—so it more than gets them off the hook. It makes me wonder, now, just who Erickson wrote to, as the Gary’s All Natural Peanuts trade mark does not come up in a search.

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Comments:
Hello Mr. Yan,

My name is Tom Nolan & I'm VP of Sales & Marketing for Hampton Farms. We indeed own the trademark for Gary's Peanuts. We aqcuired this Brand in an acquisition in August of 2003. Gary's Peanuts was founded by three men named Gary, sometime in the 70's, in downtown Cincinati. it was intially sold in the early 80's and has been through many transactions, creating different ownerships, until 2003.

I can confirm that we at Hampton Farms, Severn Peanut & Meherrin, were not involved with the legal threats you described. All trademark issues come through me, since 1996, and we've never been contacted regarding anyone desiring to use the Gary's name.

We are not a multinational. We remain a family owned company, strongly committed to the success of the american peanut farmer. We work closely with growers in VA, NC, SC, GA, TX & NM. We have 4 facilities in 3 states which make peanut products ranging from In-Shell Roasted Peanuts to Peanut Butter.

We hope your readers and loyal customers of Clif Bar will not infer any unprofessional actions by personnel at Hampton Farms. Thank you for not presuming we had acted this way.

Sincerely,
Tom Nolan  
Mr Nolan, thank you for clearing that up. When Gary’s All Natural Peanuts did not appear in my trade mark search (even for dormant trade marks), I got a bit suspicious. I’m glad I put this out there so it could be answered to, and I’ll append a small note to the original blog post inviting readers to scroll down and read your response.  
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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