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.Posted by Jack Yan, 00:04
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