How a Real Quaker Perfectly Shut Down an Overzealous Quaker Oats Lawyer

Getty Images
Getty Images

The folks at Quaker Oats are very fond of their brand. On their website, they proudly claim the "Quaker Man" mascot, registered in 1877, was the first-ever registered trademark for a breakfast product. Inside the Quaker Oats Company, he's known affectionately as "Larry" (though evidence suggests he's based on William Penn), and the cartoon Quaker even underwent a makeover recently to keep him "fresh and innovative" for younger consumers.

Despite using the Quaker name and logo because it is a "symbol of good quality and honest value," the Quaker Oats Company has never had any official ties with the Religious Society of Friends (a.k.a. Quakers). While this has proven to be mildly frustrating for some in the religious group, the peace-loving Quakers aren't a litigious bunch (early American Quakers in Pennsylvania were warned against settling disputes in courts), and they have gone about their lives without lodging any official legal complaints against the company (which is now owned by PepsiCo).

The massive oatmeal conglomerate that uses the Quakers' name, however, has not been hesitant to threaten legal action, as evidenced by the following exchange between Quaker Oats' counsel and a member of the Orange County Religious Society of Friends. The lawyer's complaint was meant to scare the group from using the company's cherished legal trademark, a tactic that would have proven more effective if it weren't wholly based on a reading mistake.

The response, which is published on the Southern California group's website under the headline "Quaker Oats threatens to sue us," is a great lesson on how to smoothly brush off an overzealous, "amicable" request with hilarious verve:

Dear Mr. William Lovett:
I am the attorney at the Quaker Oats Company responsible for trademark matters. As you probably know, our company manufactures numerous food products, the most famous of which is oatmeal. In addition to having used the Quaker Oats name as our company name for close to 100 years, we have registered the Quaker name as a trademark.

It was therefore quite a surprise to discover that you are operating a business under the name "Quaker Oats Christmas Tree Farm." Your use of our trademark is likely to mislead consumers into believing that your business is associated with the Quaker Oats Company. It is also likely to weaken our very strong trademark. In light of the foregoing, we hereby demand that you immediately stop all use of the "Quaker Oats" name … While we would like to settle this matter amicably, we will take all steps which are necessary and appropriate to protect our name.

Sincerely
Janet L. Silverberg, counsel

Dear Janet Silverberg:
My breakfast this morning—rolled oats by the way—was interrupted by the arrival of your letter via FedEx, which was delivered to us despite the fact that you have misspelled our company name which is Quaker OAKS Christmas Tree Farm. Our farm was so named because religious services were held outdoors on this farm under a great oak tree until about ten years ago when we were able to move into our new Meetinghouse on another corner of our farm.
Our business is 100% owned and operated by Quakers. I suspect that your firm employs considerably fewer, if any, Quakers. We trace our Quaker ancestors back 320 years and they were mostly farmers, but I don’t know how many of them grew oats for your company. My guess is that you may be selling far more Lutheran oats, Methodist oats, or maybe atheist oats. Could your company be guilty of product source misrepresentation?

We don’t know why you choose to associate your commercial products with our faith, but we supposed you feel there is some marketing value from it. If you were selling machine guns, roulette wheels or some other product offensive to our Quaker faith, we would be upset by the association, but since we find your products wholesome and enjoyable, we consider your use of our name a compliment. We invite you to visit our farm to verify that we are indeed Quaker Oaks Christmas Tree Farm. If you come in December, we’d be happy to sell you a tree!

Sincerely,
William Lovett, 
Visalia, California

We reached out to the Quaker Oats Company about the veracity of this exchange. "This letter predates me," their representative said in an email, "but from what I can gather the letter is nearly 15 years old."

[h/t: Steve Silberman]

If March 15 Is the Ides of March, What Does That Make March 16?

iStock.com/bycostello
iStock.com/bycostello

Everyone knows that the soothsayer in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar was talking about March 15 when he warned the Roman emperor to "beware the Ides of March." We also all know Caesar's response: "Nah, I gotta head into the office that day." But if March 15 is the Ides of March, what does that make March 16?

At the time of Caesar's assassination, Romans were using the Julian calendar (introduced by Julius Caesar himself). This was a modified version of the original Roman calendar, and it is very similar to the one we use today (which is called the Gregorian calendar). A major difference, however, was how Romans talked about the days.

Each month had three important dates: the Kalends (first day of the month), the Ides (the middle of the month), and the Nones (ninth day before the Ides, which corresponded with the first phase of the Moon). Instead of counting up (i.e., March 10, March 11, March 12), Romans kept track by counting backwards and inclusively from the Kalends, Ides, or Nones. March 10 was the sixth day before the Ides of March, March 11 was the fifth day before the Ides of March, and so on.

Because it came after the Ides, March 16 would’ve been referred to in the context of April: "The 17th day before the Kalends of April." The abbreviated form of this was a.d. XVII Kal. Apr., with "a.d." standing for ante diem, meaning roughly "the day before."

So, had Julius Caesar been murdered on March 16, the soothsayer's ominous warning would have been, "Beware the 17th day before the Kalends of April." Doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

This story first ran in 2016.

Show Houseguests Who's in Charge With This Game of Thrones Doormat

ThinkGeek
ThinkGeek

If you’re prone to houseguests who shed crumbs on your sofa and use all the toilet paper without replacing it, it might be time to demand a little respect. This Game of Thrones doormat from the merchants at ThinkGeek offers some guidance. Emblazoned on the mat is an order to “bend the knee” before entering your home.

A doormat from the HBO series 'Game of Thrones' is pictured
ThinkGeek

The 17-inch long by 29-inch wide mat arrives in time for the eighth and final season of the popular HBO series, which is set to debut April 14. Chronicling the lives of disparate characters vying for control of the Iron Throne, the show has often depicted Daenerys Targaryen, also known as the Mother of Dragons and played by Emilia Clarke, ordering subjects to “bend the knee” before addressing her. In season seven, King in the North Jon Snow famously refused to do so before eventually capitulating. Had she laid out the doormat, it’s possible he wouldn’t have taken as long.

The mat retails for $24.99 and can be purchased online here.

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